Can you talk the REAL talk?


The core of any good business relationship is being able to talk to others.  REALLY talk to them.  Not just about transactional stuff, or about the weather, fashion or football.  But about the business, organisational or personal things that matter to them.  Because if we can engage at this level, we find out so much more about what they might need.  Unfortunately, some are either oblivious to this level of operation, or think that they do it already so don’t need to bother.  For both, here are three things that will assist in preparing the ground for a productive interaction.

Lead, structure, collaborate  Good discussions don’t usually happen by accident.  Nor passively can we expect clients or contacts to make the running (“If she wants to talk about that sort of thing, she will”).  It is up to us to initiate and sell the need for it e.g. for a ‘review of how things are going with you’.  Once done, we need to take further initiative by proposing what needs to be discussed and get their buy-in to this by sending an agenda for input.

Canvass – inside and out   So if allowed, do some people tip up to the meeting totally unprepared?  You bet they do!  After all, this isn’t paid work is it?  It’s far less important.  Except that if they mess up, the consequences could be, ahem, interesting for future work streams.  All it takes is a quick search for the latest on what has been going on in their world, and a few calls or emails to relevant colleagues to get their views on current issues.

Bring an IDEA   What can differentiate one organisation and individual from another?  In practice, very little.  One thing that people say consistently that they are looking for is advisers (or perhaps colleagues too?) who are proactive and give them insight.  So from the work done by canvassing, find an idea to bring to the party that will be of value to them.

James Newberry is a coach and trainer who helps professionals and other specialists exert more influence….and enjoy it!  Have a look at to know more.

How to stand out in an “all the same” world


“There is absolutely no differentiation in the market at all – you all look the same”*
(*Christopher Digby-Bell, quoted in Legal Week, June 1 2015)

Post-2008, competition in most branches of the professions has never been hotter.  There is no shortage of other providers vying for your clients’ business: it can be difficult to choose from the service offerings and claims made.  You have got to be stand-out to win.  Unfortunately not enough are it seems.  So time for three things to consider that can help you to be singular and make the most positive impact.

Point of Difference…what’s yours?

“I’m a tax adviser….corporate lawyer…..architect….engineer etc.”   A lot of professionals we meet are PoD-free zones.  They find it almost impossible to articulate what their Point of Difference is…what makes them beneficially and attractively different to those who share their basic nomenclature.  So they all tend to look and sound the same to clients.

Why?  For some it’s about “not blowing your own trumpet” as they perceive it; for others it’s the “better mouse trap” syndrome (surely the world will naturally beat a path to the door of my expertise?) or an inability to recognise what they do that is of real value to others.

Almost everyone we have ever met has a PoD in them somewhere.  They just need help in thinking/talking it through, and expressing it punchily in ways that are most relevant to those they seek to attract.

You gotta tell AND show

“You have got to be more business savvy.  When you say you know and understand my business what I want to hear is not only do you understand it but you have real experience of it” (ibid.)

Claims are everywhere – but what clients most often want is EVIDENCE of experience.  Despite their professed focus on the E word (lawyers especially), many professionals are singularly averse when it comes to providing it to clients (“what if I get it wrong/breach confidentiality” etc. etc.).    All it takes is a relevant story told confidently and convincingly (What did they need?  What did you do?  What was achieved? How did you make a difference?).

It’s simple.  Just ditch the excuses and do it.  You will stand out.

 The one where the talk was actually walked…

This is a true story about making a difference and the positive impact gained from not being the same.

Two firms were involved in a pitch to a potential client.  Their Points of Parity (service attributes shared with each other) were equal in number and type.  Both promised outstanding client service and speed of response.  Both produced attractive documents and convincing presentations with real examples of their experience.  During the presentation dialogues, some interesting and unresolved issues were raised by the prospect with both firms.

So who won the day?  Back at their offices, the partners of one firm breathed a collective sigh of relief for their considerable efforts, reviewed their performance and waited for a decision – which they lost.  The other, equally-taxed firm went away and, within two hours, had emailed their advice on the unresolved issues to the client – and they won.

By being the values they claimed to espouse, they were different…and victorious.