In an earlier article, I shared some tips on the technical effectiveness of team presentations. But the other and often bigger challenge is the effectiveness of your “people skills.” Clients who are in search of a vendor don’t just want someone who can do the job. They’re looking for trustworthiness, commitment and chemistry with the project team. Despite the fact that a vendor search may be based on a rational, objective decision-making process, the bottom line is clients are going to select people they like. No matter how well you meet their criteria, if they don’t like you, it won’t matter.
Here are some ways to up your likeability factor:
- Understanding. How well do you understand not only the client’s business and project needs, but their constraints, their challenges, their difficulties? Be sure to focus on your knowledge and understanding of the client’s needs, not just on your strengths and assets.
- Attitude. Having a confident, can-do attitude is extremely appealing. You exhibit confidence when you answer questions knowledgeably, speak positively—“we can take care of that”—and don’t put yourself down and sell yourself short. Remember, a huge determining factor in the client’s perception of your attitude is nonverbal. Watch your body language—make sure it’s open, relaxed, and interested. Lean forward when someone speaks to you, make eye communication with every member on the team, put some energy in your comments. Show your pleasure at this opportunity. Smile easily, have enthusiasm for the project. Clients want to work with pleasant, positive people. It doesn’t matter if you feel pleased and proud to be there. What matters is if you look pleased and proud. If you’re leaning back in the chair, with your arms crossed and a bored or distracted look on your face, that’s what the client will believe you feel.
- Listening. Good listening skills are potent. Remember to use “active listening,” the three-step technique of using your EAR—Engage the speaker, Actually hear what’s being said, and Respond appropriately—to engage others and let them know you’ve both heard and understood them. When your prospect talks about their issues, problems, and objectives, your ability to show you’ve heard and understood has immeasurable impact.
- Interest. Without a doubt, showing interest in others is one of the most powerful likeability factors. Make sure that the focus of your presentation is not entirely on you and what you offer. While you certainly want to communicate your positive points, keep in mind that everyone else is doing that, too. What will impress the client and be more memorable is how much interest you took in them—as individual members and as a company. This starts well before that final presentation, of course. You want to take every opportunity to meet with the decision-makers beforehand and show genuine interest in their business and their projects. Keep in mind that the client isn’t interested in how tough or difficult it will be for you to pull this off. But they’ll be sincerely impressed if you’re interested in their challenges—and can offer ways to solve their dilemmas. It’s a fact of basic human relations that we’re drawn to people who are interested in us.
Let me close with a final reference to the word team. Any time someone’s ego takes over on a team, it’s usually disastrous. You’re there as a team because the prospect wants to see a representative sampling of your expertise and skills and wants a feel for the chemistry between your group and theirs. When one person tries to hog the spotlight or insists on correcting or contradicting team members when they say something wrong, that person—no matter how right or bright—will doom the team to failure.
People do business with those they like. And we tend to like those who like us. So exhibit these traits to show your commitment to a project and you’ll increase your “win” factor.