Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Afraid to Sing Your Own Praises?

Do you hesitate when it's time to talk about your strengths or the benefits of your product or service? Just last week I was sitting at a table of professional coaches and therapists and when a discussion started about this topic, people still voiced the fear that telling someone your strengths was like bragging and it felt uncomfortable. This is a common issue for people,whether it's about answering questions at a job interview or pitching your product or services - people often equate promoting themselves with boasting. THIS HAS GOT TO STOP! There is a difference and hopefully I can make it clear in this blog post.

I find one of the most important ways to overcome "fear of singing your praises" or “fear of pitching”  is to shift your focus. Most of us focus on what a potential client or interviewer can do for us and less on what we can do for them. Focusing on what they can do for us makes us nervous and self conscious and taps into the “Are we good enough?” mindset. We get hung up on “Are we saying, doing the right thing to make the sale?” "Are we saying or doing the right thing to make them like me?"  Are we overselling ourselves, underselling ourselves? Instead, we should ask, “Are we saying, doing the right thing to show how excited we are about helping them.” And yes, as a job prospect, your focus should be on helping them (the company).  People do like to hire people that they like. However, they also want to hire people who will help their bottom line.

Ask yourself what I ask my clients; what value do you provide? I don’t mean what experience or education you've had or what product or service you offer or how your product or service makes people’s lives better. Most of us have learned to answer those questions. What I like to find out is why you want to be the one to provide that particular product or service. Why, faced with two people with similar resumes, should I hire you and not the other candidate? Answering the “why you” question gets you in touch with the passion behind why you do what you do and that is something nobody can judge or dispute.

Talking about how passionate you are about your strengths and skills, is not unlike the common communication strategy of using “I” language in difficult conversations. When you use “I” language, you tell people how you personally feel which makes it difficult for the person you are talking to to be offended or become defensive. Similarly, when you tell a potential client or employer how passionately you feel about your business or your skills, it’s difficult for that potential client or employer to criticize, judge or feel pressured.

There is a huge difference between talking to someone because you want to SELL something or WANT something from them and talking to someone because you are passionate about HELPING them. It’s why we have an easier time promoting our friends - we aren’t focused on getting the sale or the job but on sharing information we believe in.

There are other strategies for improving our ability to confidently sing our own praises:
  • Asking for feedback from current clients or friends who believe in what you do;
  • Working with a coach to develop confident body language and vocal and verbal messaging;
  • Videotaping yourself practicing various pitches or interview questions till you feel comfortable.
 But I feel the most important strategy is shifting your focus off of what you want to get from people and on to what you want to give.