One thing you are doing is hurting your efforts to make a strong impression in sales, networking, or job hunting. This one simple change will improve your approach.

Have you ever wanted to make a stronger impression? Either during a job interview, landing a new account, on a first date, making a speech or presentation or networking? If you are like me you want to put your best foot forward in these situations. You want to let a potential employer know why you are the best person for the job. You review all your skills and abilities, which you believe to be a perfect match. You let the potential client know how knowledgeable you are about the product. You believe this will motivate them to buy from you.

For example, This past week, I was working with a leadership group to help them improve alignment and communication. The topic came up of “trust versus competence.” I asked the team, which they thought, was more important in their working relationships. The newest member of the team, (just five days), eager to demonstrate his knowledge and skill to the rest of the team, said “competence” without hesitation. He explained that he “had” to know the people he worked with knew what they were doing. Throughout the meeting he took opportunities to explain his competence. He thought he was proving his worth. Not true.

Also, I was recently at a networking event. Most people I know go to networking events to meet new contacts and gain potential clients. Some people go just to be with friends. Others seem to take the networking challenge seriously. I had two very different interactions with people that evening. At one point, I was sitting with an acquaintance having a serious conversation about the Hubspot marketing approach (Stop interrupting. Start connecting.). During our conversation, the hostess interrupted and asked for our attention. During this time when we were being polite to our host, a man walked up and thrust his cards at us informing us if we should every need a personal injury lawyer he was the one to call. The irony was not lost on us. I kept the card as a reminder to never call.

I was introduced to several other people who immediately began to tell me why I should use their services or expertise. These people only seemed to be interested in what they had to say or sell. They wanted me to respect their competence. You may ask, isn’t that what you are supposed to do at a networking event? Yes and no. Let me explain by sharing another experience at the same networking event. The event was held on the top floor of the Mandalay Bay in the House of Blues Foundation Room, Las Vegas. There was an open deck where you could look out over the city. I was standing by the edge admiring the view when I noticed two ladies gingerly approaching the railing. I let them know I would make sure they would not fall. We started a conversation and learned about each other’s families and professions. We started to involve other people in our conversation, which was fun and full of energy. Only after getting to know them a little did the discussion turn to business. Because of their interest, I offered to give a brief demonstration of what I do for my clients. We exchanged cards and moved on to other conversations. Of all the people I met, these are ones I was most interested in following up with.

I have always believed developing relationships is key to successful outcomes. I believe most people are more comfortable working with someone they trust and someone they know. They prefer someone who has their best interest at heart, rather than someone who is merely competent. Harvard Psychologist, Amy Cuddy, argues that when people meet you, they judge if they can trust and respect you. She says most people believe it is more important to be respected than trusted. That is why they spend so much time convincing others how smart, reliable, effective, capable, eligible, and competent they are.

Of course it is a given you must be competent. If you are not, you will soon be found out and lose the opportunity you hoped for. Amy Cuddy suggests it is more important to be trusted first, based on my experiences, I agree. Once someone trusts you, then you can demonstrate your competence. Then you can make the impression you desire.

Suggestions to build trust and make a stronger impression:

  1. Get to know others:

    Ask questions about their interests, hobbies, family and business. Learn what is important to them. Be courteous and polite. Be present and give them all your attention.

  2. Smile:

    Make good eye contact, be interested, shake hands firmly.

  3. Be relaxed:

    Avoid nervous habits like jangling keys or coins in your pocket, touching your face or hair, fidgeting, etc. Have your hands relaxed at your side when listening. Use some gestures with open hands when talking.

  4. Be a tease:

    When someone asks what you do, be brief. I believe the 30 second elevator speech is too long. Can you explain what you do in 10-15 seconds? Tease them by giving just enough information that you leave them wanting more. Think of this conversation as a first date. Leave more to be discovered. If they are interested, they will ask further questions. Show restraint with your additional answers.

  5. Be indispensable:

    Be willing to offer your services or expertise for free as an audition. Let people know you are willing to help. This builds trust and helps other’s quickly discover your competence. Most reasonable people do not expect free services in perpetuity. The sample should just be enough to encourage a formal business agreement. Be willing to start small before you propose all your goods and services. Remember, build trust, and then you will become indispensable.

  6. Use a wingman:

    Have others introduce you or talk about what you do. Third party endorsements add credibility. Be sure to return the favor.

  7. Be of service:

    Help people anyway you can. I introduce my clients to each other all the time. I have construction clients whose services I don’t personally need. I introduce them to my other clients who do. Interestingly, I only introduce my clients who I trust to my other clients. I feel making the introduction reflects on me. So again, trust comes first.

  8. Be aware:

    Learn how your behavioral traits may be helping or hurting you. For example: A highly extroverted person may have a compulsive need to be heard and speak leaving little time to listen to others. They can also get bored if the conversation is too serious. A high dominant person may want to get to the point too quickly or may be thinking about what they want to say next instead of listening. A highly patient person may be too accommodating of others and miss an opportunity. Their quiet approach may be perceived as weakness by more intense personalities. A high conforming person may look at things pessimistically, bury people with facts, can be closed-minded and have a fear of embarrassment. Awareness of your tendencies will go a long way to help you make a stronger impression.

As a business owner, I am constantly in the market to buy goods and services. I also want to hire the best candidates. I prefer to buy from those people I know and trust. I also prefer to hire people I feel would be a great with our organization. Sure they need to be competent, but if I don’t trust they are a great fit with our current team, it doesn’t matter how smart or competent they are. I would rather have a better cultural fit and train for the skills I need. It is harder to find someone that understands how to build trust than it is to find someone who is ready to tell you all they know.

Related topics: What Is Innattentional Blindness Costing You? How Asking Questions Strengthens Your TeamAct As If…Today, When Being Too Smart Hurts You, 5 Suggestions To Achieve Your Dreams.

The Author, Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC

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