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

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“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.

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Can you front up?

It’s the million pound question for anyone making a presentation. If you can, the impact on an audience, the creation of a positive impression and credibility engendered for you and your firm become palpable. And, of course, the opposite applies too unfortunately.

Having worked with and observed examples at both ends of this spectrum, there are some key things to get right. Here are three of the most crucial differentiators that will take you or your colleagues beyond the ordinary. Of course, there are more. If you want to know about them too, email me at eureka@peoplescope.com and I’ll send you more ‘Fronting Up’ ideas.

Big IS beautiful

This is the ‘eureka’ realisation for some aspiring (and indeed ‘experienced’) presenters. A presentation is NOT a conversation; the rules of engagement for making one are very different. Yet many treat them as the same…and wonder why their audiences are underwhelmed.

As a piece of public, 100% one way communication, the onus is on the presenter to generate ALL the energy in the room. This means that you have to be much BIGGER than in the more intimate, two-way energised process of a dialogue. Bigger means using your voice, content and body to generate interest. To “be a bit more shouty” as one of our workshop participants amusingly put it. She didn’t mean actually shouting, but (for her) projecting her voice in a way that would make the greater impact required. Using hands and arms to create movement and animation. It’s a different mode of operation which needs to be recognised, learned and practised.

Metaphorically speaking

Facts are good, but on their own they are not the whole nine yards for the best presentations. Metaphors are underused pieces of rhetoric that yoke a powerful image directly to your content/message, enhancing the impact of that message. So Tony Blair could have said: “Education is vital to Britain’s success in the future” or as he did say….

“Education, education, education – then and now, the key to the door of Britain’s future success

Whether you like politicians or not, they are skilled in the art of making presentations that engage with their audience. Using metaphors and other devices – there are two more being used in this one sentence – that make powerful connections with all our senses. It works. Use them.

Tell your stories (and make them interesting)

In a lot of business presentations, evidence of action or use is an important component in bringing to life the service you offer. What a shame then that some presenters do not do full justice to this. The nearest they get is: “We do this type of work for companies like A, B, and C “. Not much life in that, is there?

In this context, fronting up consists of telling stories that really engage your audience in what happened. Describing the challenges faced by your client and how you and the firm helped overcome them, and the benefits that they received as a result. That way you will stand out.