Friday, July 30, 2010

"Us poor accountants..."

I was a practising accountant for over 30 years so speak from experience. When you attend events and you’re asked, “What do you do?” it’s not the best time of the day. Now be honest we all know what peoples’ perceptions are of us when we say, “I’m an accountant”. Grey people in grey suits!  But we’re not are we? So how do we overcome this first impression? Rather than telling others who we are we tell them what we do, in fact we tell them what we can do for them.
“I help my clients to grow their business” or “I ensure my clients don’t pay a penny more tax than they should” or “When businesses get into financial difficulties, my role is to give the best advice.”  
All of a sudden people see you in a completely different light and treat you as the interesting person you no doubt are.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Networking isn't selling!!

Networking and selling are like oil and water, they don’t mix. When you go networking it is simply a platform for creating the opportunity to sell. 

Networking is about building relationships and the selling of yourself.  Be interested, not interesting and whilst you are in the middle of a conversation rabiting on about your products and services, think of the acronym, WAIT – WHY AM I TALKING.  All good sales people know that we were given two ears and one mouth, unfortunately not a lot of people realise it was a message from above that we are expected to use them in that proportion.  Creating the right impression by being a good listener can lead to that follow-up call after a networking event with the possibility then, only then, of doing some real business.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Take your networking seriously!

When you treat your attendance at business events as seriously as you would everyday business meetings, I believe you will have lots more fun and gain far more opportunities as a result. Surely you would never meet a client or a professional contact or in fact attend any serious business gathering without  some planning and preparation?   No. So why just roll up at a gathering, conference or any business encounter and hope for the best?

The smaller the event e.g. a dinner or a Saturday afternoon in your client’s executive box at Old Trafford the more important it is you find out about your fellow guests. Before attending events I suggest you ask yourself a number of questions using the table on the following page.

How are you going to get the best out of these two precious hours? How are you going to ensure that you make the right impression? Have you got a clear, concise and interesting answer to the question ‘what do you do?’ How many business cards are you going to take with you? How many “ahaa” moments should you be aiming for?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ever wondered how to approach large groups of people?

Groups of 4+ are the big challenge for most people; whether it’s the approaching, the entering or the leaving.  Let me say here and now, until you’ve got your ‘L’ plates off, don’t start approaching groups, particularly when you don’t know anyone.  Needless to say, it’s not so bad when there is at least one member of the group whom you know, but, even then, it can be a bit daunting.

The group to approach is the one you feel most comfortable with.  Firstly, I’d like to suggest that you aim for groups of three; groups of four or more, even for me, are a big challenge.  Sticking with this group of three, decide whether you are more comfortable with males, females or a mix. At the same time, decide whether you feel at ease with small, medium or tall people. 

Personally, at 5’ 6”, I would never approach three dark-suited men who are 6’ tall; talk about being out of my comfort zone! 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hard Skills vs Soft Skills

Hard Skills

In your world of work, “hard skills” are technical procedures related to your core business; examples include the latest law, rules and regulations in your area of expertise, or industry.  Ironically enough these ’hard’ skills are typically easy to observe, quantify and measure. They’re also generally easy to train, because most of the time it is actually just knowledge being taught.  The facts one learns are generally right or wrong so there can be little scope for misunderstanding.

Soft Skills

By contrast, “soft skills” (also called “people skills”) are typically hard to observe, quantify and measure. You can teach knowledge as we mentioned above, you can’t teach attitudes or mind-sets. As the last phrase suggests, when one has a set idea it is very difficult to change peoples’ minds.

So what is more important?

People skills are needed for everyday life as much as they’re needed for work. They have to do with how people relate to each other, communicating, listening, engaging in dialogue, giving feedback, cooperating as a team member, solving problems, contributing in meetings and resolving conflict. Leaders at all levels rely heavily on people skills, too: setting an example, teambuilding, facilitating meetings, encouraging innovation, solving problems, making decisions, planning, delegating, observing, instructing, coaching, encouraging and motivating.


When you look for new people to join your company, what are you focusing on?

I think it’s only when you’ve been at work a few years that you realise the hard skills are easy to learn, and it takes many a fall to learn the soft skills.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

“I know it’s a girly thing but….”

As part of our seminars, we run an exercise asking delegates what they should be considering before attending business events. After all, no professional or business person would ever dream of attending a client or prospect meeting without doing some preparation and planning. One of the items which is always mentioned is ‘decide what you’re going to wear’. When the answer comes from a woman it is invariable preceded by, ‘I know it’s a girly thing but……’

It is not a ‘girly thing’, it’s an everybody thing! What you wear speaks volumes for your attitude towards the people you are about to meet. When you dress inappropriately you are telling your fellow guests ‘you don’t care or you couldn’t be bothered.’ Maybe you don’t and maybe you couldn’t which is fine as long as you are happy to take the consequences (which can be either positive or negative). We don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, meaning people often judge us before we even open our mouth. ‘If people judge me on what I wear they have to be very shallow and not worth building a relationship with.’ ‘I never wear a tie and I’m not going to start doing so now’. Even the in-coming Prime Minister Gordon Brown has refused to dress up in evening attire. Many people will judge those attitudes as a guide to how you lead your business life in general. By dressing in a suitable manner you are telling the other people in the room you respect them, you do care how you are perceived and you do give others an overall impression of what you think and who you are. This may include being individualist, maverick and even eccentric.

When you’re Sir Richard Branson in his jumpers or Sir Bob Geldof with his hairstyle I guess you have ‘made it’ and couldn’t give a damn about what others think. To us mere mortals perhaps we should.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Networking...what a terrible idea, you wouldn't catch me doing it!

The word network often strikes fear and dread into people or they immediately have strong negative thoughts about it. Manipulative, scheming, selling are just 3 words associated with this all-important activity. The irony is we all network from the time we start to talk. My view, it is simply building relationships; either new ones or reinforcing existing ones. “I’m going networking once this week” implies you’re going to spend the rest of week sitting in a darkened room with no access to the outside world. It’s just communicating - be it face-to face, the phone or more and more through the computer. Social networking or social media, the phrases can be interchanged, are becoming the dominant method of communication. As someone who acknowledges he is a little quaint and old-fashioned I fear for the future of inter-personal communication. There can never be a substitute for attending events, no replacement for the smile, the eye contact and the reading of the body language.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

How to deal with Rude People

Unfortunately there are people like this everywhere. Can I suggest how you deal with them?
1. Don’t ever be rude back. My mother told me, that two wrongs don’t make a right. Great advice I’ve always thought.
2. They are in a minority, so the chances of you meeting too many are slim.
Again, take the moral high ground and think ‘I don’t want to spend much longer with you.’ How does this rude behaviour manifest itself? It’s generally when people start looking over your shoulder and their eyes are wandering. I think we all accept thsat body language is the most powerful form of communication, so they are saying to you in as clear a manner as if they had a neon flashing sign above their head, ‘I want to be off.’ Read the sign and do them and yourself a favour. When a lull comes in the conversation, simply say: “Well, John, it’s been great meeting you, have a good evening. I promised I’d catch up with Mary over there”.
How do think John is going to feel? Yes, that’s right, relieved of course. He told you a few moments ago he’d like to go; you’ve just done him a favour. Please, don’t you ever act like John. When the conversation has come to its natural end, move on in one of the polite ways mentioned elsewhere.
The majority of people are kind, polite and courteous; they’re the ones you want to build relationships with. Stick with them and avoid the rest.
Check out this rude, yet humorous networker, don’t want to meet this gentleman, do you?