As a child, I wanted to be a number of things, ‘when I grew up.’ A farmer (until I found out you had to get up early EVERY DAY), an artist (a distinct lack of talent put paid to that) and a spy (can’t confirm if that happened or not).
Fast forward a few decades and I recently overheard my son telling someone what I did for a living: “She sends emails.”
Not quite the varied and dynamic portrait I’d hope to paint as a role model to my children but when you have one of those careers you struggle to explain to your grandmother, “I work for a strategic consultancy delivering brand-led business growth.” “What’s that dear?”, sending emails seems like a fair short cut for now.
Granted, it might not cover quite the full range of my role and responsibilities but it made me think about how we describe ourselves and how we are seen by others.
One of the things we do is to work with organisations helping individuals and teams prospect and pitch for new business. Many of us have experienced the ‘creeping death’ of the round table introduction at the start of a meeting or pitch. Frequently, it starts like this: “my name’s X, I’m a (job title), I’ve worked here for X years.” It’s often delivered in a monotone or mumbled or rushed through to get it over with. And if one person takes that approach, then everyone follows with the result that the audience is as bored as the people saying it.
“Many of us have experienced the ‘creeping death’ of the round table introduction at the start of a meeting or pitch.”
Introductions are the ‘social glue’ of business meetings. We all feel better when we know who is in the room and it’s helpful to know what they do. It’s the business equivalent of Cilla Black’s Blind Date opening, “who are you and where do you come from?” And yet we give this minimal thought and focus on the least interesting aspect of our job – our length of service. Who cares?
If I took the same group of people and asked one of them to describe someone else in the room, they’d probably lead with something a lot more interesting than their job title. They might say this person was brilliant at strategy or an expert in algorithms, that they keep llamas as a hobby or are incredibly reliable (a trait that no one seems to boast about but reliability leads to trust and to be a trusted advisor is the holy grail of client relationships). It’s great to be reliable! Out of all those descriptors, you’ll probably remember the llamas because it’s unusual. Unfortunately, it’s probably not relevant to the day job. Unless you’re pitching for the Llama account in which case, knock yourself out. But what’s your llama equivalent that is relevant?
Years ago, I worked in a firm where one of the account executives had recently changed career. She’d moved from crime forensics to work in consumer PR. Putting aside the obvious question of WHY?, she was instantly memorable in pitches because, apart from being great at her job, clients loved her back story and loved the idea of that analytical brain being applied to their business issue. She also had great stories such as how to stand so you fall backwards when you faint, rather than tipping into the body on the mortuary table. (Put your right foot a step in front of your left one, rather than standing with your feet next to each other. You’re welcome.)
So what’s your story? Can you introduce yourself in your next prospect meeting or pitch in a way that’s memorable and doesn’t feel awkward? We’re not looking for a monologue here, just your name, your experience and something that’s relevant to the client’s business (e.g. what you’ll be doing in service of that client). Sounds like another missive from the Department of the Bleeding Obvious but you’d be surprised how many people don’t give any thought to this. We introduce ourselves so many times in the world of work, no wonder we can sound bored of it. But the client or prospect is hearing this for the first time.
People buy conviction. Clients want certainty and fluency. If you can’t even introduce yourself – your expert subject area – it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the pitch.
And if you’re not sure what to say about yourself, ask someone else to describe you and take the good stuff from that. For as Jeff Bezos from Amazon famously once said, “A brand is what they say about you when you’re not in the room.” Clearly, in the case of my son’s impression of me, a brand refresh is required. Fortunately, I know just the right strategic consultancy delivering brand-led growth to help me with that.
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