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Judging a book by its cover: Why customers DO judge you by your appearance and how a personal professional branding expert can make ALL the difference
Gill Hicks is a well respected NLP expert and Personal Professional Branding Expert, and it was through Gill that I first got involved with NLP.
Gill helps hundreds of people every year, maximise their chances of success in meetings by making massively important changes to the way they look, act and speak. Gill also runs her own personal branding business, called Positive Potential.
Like you, I was curious, to understand why dressing for success is so important, and how you can improve your chances of success in meetings just by wearing the right clothes. Gill agreed to take some valuable time out of her schedule, to share some of her pearls of wisdom with Eco Business Academy.
Here’s what Gill had to say:-
Eco Business Academy: Gill, Firstly thank you so much for taking the time out to share your views and your experience with Eco Business Academy’s readers. Gill, can you explain to us what an Personal Professional Branding Expert is and why we all need one?”
Gill Hicks: I’d like to start by saying we don’t all need one, Jason! We are born with ‘perfect dress sense’ and it is this dress sense that tells us when we have made the right purchases – they are the items we love wearing, they make us feel good and more confident. Some people are really in touch with this dress sense – they love and wear everything they buy and they always look good.
For most, it is the 80/20 rule, they wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time – it is these people who would really benefit from a consultation. Not only is this type of wardrobe a huge waste of money, but the biggest waste is people going around much of the time feeling very mediocre – what a waste of life! An Image Consultant will demonstrate a wide range of colours, styles, accessories, and textures to harmonise with their client’s colouring, shape, personality and lifestyle so the client can then confidently purchase items that will appeal to their dress sense, will make them feel and project an air of greater confidence.
The image consultant should give advice on dressing appropriately for their client’s working environment and career aspirations. If you have any doubts, then a consultation would be a very sensible investment, reaping huge financial rewards by raising the chances of converting prospects to customers more quickly.
EBA: You work with a wide variety of professionals, and I’m sure there are certain expectations depending on which industry someone is working in. Perhaps it might be useful for our readers to see some contrasting stories, for instance someone in financial services, and someone in Information Technology. What are some common themes?
Gill: Yes, I have worked with thousands of individuals from a huge range of industries. Well within Financial Services there are obviously a wide range of cultures – from back office to front office, traders to H.R. etc and from private banking, hedge funds, investment banking, retail banking and so on. An appropriate style of dress is slightly different amongst all of these, so what could I helpfully say is a fairly common theme?
I see a number of people dressing at a level they have come from rather than investing in the level they are aspiring to. Think of the Tesco Value range packaging versus their Finest range – we believe the quality of the packaging reflects the quality of the product inside – we respond to people in much the same way, it is quite simple really.
So up the quality and aim to dress to the ‘highest common denominator’ for the audience’s culture and prepare to try on dozens of suits until you find one that really makes you feel great – or ideally go for made to measure.
I.T. is another story altogether! I think it is fair to say that appearance will be less influential in meetings for technical, non managerial meetings than in almost any other sector I can think of. However, a good ‘technician’ is somebody who has a certain amount of creativity, is results focused and detail conscious – so think of trying to reflect these qualities in your appearance with particular attention to a high level of maintenance (i.e. everything clean, polished and contemporary).
The common theme I have noticed amongst the IT profession is poor attention to detail in their appearance.
EBA: (Adjusting my tie and checking my hair) Great thanks Gill, that’s really interesting stuff. What sort of motivating feedback from clients can you share with us, after they have come to see you for a consultation? How does it help inner confidence and results in meetings?
Gill: I have a stackful of letters from clients – I keep them all! I hear that not only have clients received far more rapid success than they could have imagined, but the thing I love is hearing how confidence levels have soared – it always gives me a little shiver, and of course it impacts on every part of their lives.
It is difficult to attribute meeting success directly with a client’s consultation, but since first impressions happen within a couple of seconds, and having talked to possibly hundreds of ‘interviewers/prospective purchasers’, I can confirm that in many instances a decision as to ‘this one looks very promising’ or ‘this is going to be a waste of time’ is frequently taken instantly they see the candidate — before the meeting has ‘officially begun’ and that first impression really impacts on what the prospect then ‘hears’.
Appearance and body language is all they have to go on at that first impression stage, so appearance is crucial.
EBA: Wow, well we had better make sure we get it right then. As I’m sure many people reading this won’t have the opportunity to meet with you in time for their next presentation meeting, can you give us two crucial dos and don’ts, that will have an immediate impact?”
Gill: Do have a good clear out of the wardrobe, discarding or putting to one side anything that you wouldn’t want to wear on a ‘good day’. Check you have enough really ‘feel good’ items to be able to ring the changes for up to 3 presentations with the same firm, and diarise what you have worn where as it is easy to forget if you are meeting with several prospective clients.
Don’t wait until you are called for a meeting to race out to the shops and buy something new – it will almost certainly be a mistake if bought in haste. You WILL get meetings, so do some research shopping first and don’t get tempted by buying too early with an ‘it will do’ attitude wait to you find something that makes you feel great.
EBA: We’ll all take your advice Gill! Finally, if someone wanted to find out more about your services, do you have a website they can visit, or a way they can contact you to ask a question or three?
Thank you Jason, and good luck to all your followers!
EBA: Thanks Gill, I’m sure they all appreciate the advice! I’m off to clear out my wardrobe! Now where are those leather trousers…….?
We have had a busy week at Eco Business Academy. New businesses that we are coaching just this week included jewellery design, catering and stringed instrument makers. We showed a luthier how to run a direct mail marketing campaign to all of his last 30 years’ customers at ZERO COST. In fact done right, it may even turn him a small profit before without him even needing to sell anything.
We want everyone to experience the powerful benefits of this type of coaching and training, but not everyone can afford it.
So, we are offering the opportunity to ONE small business owner the opportunity to win one month of sales & marketing coaching (worth in excess of $300), to one lucky Eco Business Academy follower.
All you need to do is go to www.ecobusinessacademy.com, and sign up to the 10 free video series (enter your details in the box on the homepage, or watch the Lead Generation Mistakes video at www.ecobusinessacademy.com/leadgenerationmistakes), and tomorrow I will announce here who the winner is. All entrants will get free advertising as we will post your web address on the blog if you put in brackets after your name your URL e.g.
Name: John (www.isellgreataquariums.com)
email: john @ isellgreataquariums.com
So, if you’re feeling lucky, click on one of the links above, and you will be entered into the draw.
Have you ever gone up to someone, and asked them “So John, what do you do?”, and you get an answer like “I’m an accountant”.
Don’t you think that’s interesting?
The problem with John’s answer here, is that he has just labelled himself, and we all have our own image, preconceived idea or in NLP terms, internal representation, of what an accountant is. You know, a short thin guy with round glasses, an old grey suit that hasn’t been dry cleaned for 12 years…your image of course may be different. But either way, the words “I’m an accountant” is most likely to conjure up the image of a person, rather than the results or service that the person offers.
So think about how to answer that question next time you are asked it. Let’s move back to John. How else could he have answered? Well he could have said, depending on his individual specialisation, something like:
“I work with people to help them decrease their tax obligations and increase the efficiency of the management of their cash flow”. Immediately we get a clear picture of the benefit of what John has to offer.
So whenever you are in a meeting, and your running through your list of previous customers, and describing who you currently work for, make sure you simply describe what your value-add is to each customer, why they initially hired you and how you helped the customers save money, get their new kitchen built, have a great driving experience, sleep better at night etc….
Give examples of how you have done this. Telling stories is a great way to sell your point. Simply making statements or stating facts, is all very interesting, but doesn’t get someone to buy. Maybe you already know the expression :
Remember, in the context of a meeting, the irony is that the customer has a problem, which is why they have made the time to speak to you, yet at the same time they will be quite on their guard to reveal their real needs or spending capability – it’s a human pride and defensive mechanism. Being aware of this is particularly important, or easier to demonstrate in a slightly differentselling context.
Namely that of a counsellor or psychiatrist selling their services to a potential ‘patient’ (isn’t that a horrible word to use). Let’s say Mary is a therapist, she will be looking for new patients, or as I prefer, customers.
So, Mary is introduced to someone who has some kind of marital issue going on for them. Mary at this point can do one of two things:
“Hi, I’m Mary and I’m a family therapist and work on marriage and relationship problems. How can I help? (Translation: What’s your problem?)” – This will immediately put the potential customer on the back foot, because as you know, they don’t need therapy!
or a much softer approach:
“Hi, I’m Mary. I recently met with someone who was facing some issues within their relationship. At first it seemed to them (note: no use of the words “patient, client, customer” etc) that the situation was hopeless, that there was no way of getting out of the downward spiral that the relationship was going. We talked a lot about how the two were communicating, or not communicating, and quickly discovered from both sides that they actually had the same views, goals and ambitions, but were too scared to talk about them. Now they are really happy, and the relationship is blossoming stronger than ever before. If you are feeling low, maybe I could share some of my experience of how to overcome any anxieties you have right now.”
Mary in this case has sold her services, using a story, a real life example, to which her prospective client can relate to.
Human beings love hearing sensational stories, that’s why newspapers sell so well. You’ll never see a newspaper saying “US Economy coasting along very nicely thank you very much” or “Business at IBM is doing generally alright, executives say”. You’ll only see sensationally negative or positive headlines like “10,000 people laid off at Walter Mitty Plc as business is hit by economic downturn” or “10 million people get huge tax break”. The Media sells the story, and they do it exceptionally well. It’s a love hate relationship.
Identifying the customers’ issues, and then outlining examples how you have fixed similar issues in the past, is going to be your priority and will be key to succeeding in closing the sale. Tell stories, and ask them to share their similar stories.
What’s your story?
Today we have an interview with presentations expert Beth Harvey, who I often send clients to for a presentation masterclasses. Here is what Beth had to say about what to do and what not to do to make a winning presentation in interview.
Eco Business Academy: Hi Beth, thanks for sparing some of your valuable time to share some pearls of wisdom with our readers. Why don’t you start by telling everyone how you became to be the ‘presentations guru’ and why this has become such a passion of yours?
Beth: My first ever presentation as a management trainee, longer ago than is appropriate to share, was probably the most terrifying experience I had ever had. But I persevered, and eventually learned to love it, so much so that I ended up training and presenting for a living. It’s a passion for me because I firmly believe that presentations are just conversations with groups of people and don’t have to be huge ordeals – and I’d rather other people reached that conclusion earlier in their careers than I did! Consequently, I really enjoy working with people of all ages, levels of seniority and backgrounds to help them enjoy their presentations, regardless of subject matter.
EBA: Fascinating! Okay, to get everyone started, perhaps you can tell us a couple of stories. One of a particularly great presentation, and one of a badly prepared presentation. What made them so good or so bad?
Beth: A professor of positive psychology at a conference delivered the best presentation I have seen recently. The worst was a results presentation to City analysts. What was fascinating for me was that although the content in the latter was (arguably) better composed, the presenters approached their audience as “the enemy”. In the first one, the whole session felt like a conversation with a very large group of friends. What both sessions reinforced for me was the importance of treating your audience, and their views, with respect.
EBA: thanks. Can you give us a top 5 Do’s and Don’ts to help job?hunters ace their presentations. What fonts, sizes, colours usually?work best? Should one put pictures or even sounds and moving pictures?in presentations?
Beth: Not sure about a top five either way, but there are definitely some golden rules that apply!
Prepare your presentation before you do your slides. Some of the worst presentations are written straight onto PowerPoint, and it shows – mainly because the author has just “brain dumped” whatever came into their head, and then tried to present it. Get your key messages straight first. What do you want the audience to remember?
Remember that a PowerPoint presentation doesn’t replace what you’re saying, so your presentation materials need to support, rather than replace, your content. It’s almost impossible to build a relationship with your audience if they’re trying to read a complicated slide before you move on to the next one. So a good rule of thumb to use is:
• No more than five bullets per slide?• No more than five words per bullet
It’s also helpful to take a minimalist approach to your materials – less is definitely more. No-one wants to endure Death by PowerPoint! Ten slides for a ten minute presentation is, in my opinion, at least six too many. You’ll struggle to get through them. If the organisation you are presenting to likes to use detailed or complicated materials, provide further, more detailed slides as handouts after the presentation, and cover the “headlines” in your allotted presentation time.
For interview presentations, try and use a font size and colour which are the same as, or similar to, the ones used by the organisation you want to join. You can usually pick these up from their websites. The subliminal message is “We are on the same wavelength!”
EBA: Ah, yes, matching – I can just hear the NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) practitioners out there resonating with that one!
Beth: Pictures are helpful, and often illustrate a point far better than words. Moving graphics and sounds can work but again, need to be appropriate and useful and support your key messages, rather than an exercise in demonstrating your IT skills. If you’re in any way worried about how they will work, best to avoid them.
So the questions to ask yourself are:?“Do my materials reinforce my main messages?”?“Are they appropriate to the culture of the organisation I am presenting to?”?“Am I confident that I can get it all to work properly on the day?”
A final tip – always take printed copies of your slides in case the laptop or projector fails you on the day. Having a contingency plan in place makes all the difference.
EBA: are there any good websites where we can pick up more?presentation tips or templates?
Personally, I’m not sure that templates are the answer – if you want to see them used comically to great effect, visit www.norvig.com/gettysburg and see how Lincoln would have coped with modern technology…
www.uncommon-knowledge.co.uk/public_speaking has lots of great tips and ideas, particularly for nervous presenters.
EBA: So far we have mainly talked about the electronic side of?presenting, you know, how to put together the materials. How about?the physical aspect of presenting. How should one deliver the? presentation? Does one stand up, and if so where? I know when I stand up and present I tend to walk around a little bit, and I try to engage my audience as much as possible with questions. I think that if one is in a situation where the recipients are sitting down, it’s better?to remain in the same plane or at the same level – as it helps maintain that all important rapport. What are your thoughts on this?
Beth: I agree with you, Jason, and I think that the culture of the firm is important here too. Don’t forget that national culture also has an impact on presentation approach, so if you’re presenting abroad, do your research on this. Check out the expectations of the audience in advance if you can. Do they expect a formal approach, where you stand up and they sit down? Can you ask people to interact, or will questions be kept until the end? Or is the organization or association the kind of place where everyone sits down and has a chat? Ask the person who is organising the engagement as many questions as you feel you can – about the people attending, what style the organisation prefers, and even the room itself. Preparation really does count here. The more information you have in advance, the more confident you’ll feel about your approach – leaving you free to concentrate on the content.
One final thought. Presentations are rarely the first stage in a selection process; the organisation has usually decided that you have something to offer before they ask you to prepare something like this. So remember – this is your opportunity to share your wisdom with a wider audience, and prove conclusively that you are the person for the job. Have fun, and good luck!
EBA: Thanks Beth for all of your advice, I know that Eco Business Academy readers will have found some fantastic tips here.