Today’s guest blog is by Terry Corby’s whose 30 years of experience as a client, consultant and talent evangelist led him to create Differentz.
He spent 15 years as a partner in two of the world’s largest professional services firms, Accenture and KPMG. Before that, he held senior roles at American Express and Sainsbury’s.
I’ll start with a question. Could you tell me what your clients think your top qualities are, and which ones mean the most for them? You can probably tell people what value you think you added to the last project you carried out, but I wonder if your clients would describe that value in the same way?
Knowing what your clients think of the work you do on each completed project is vital. But if you could build up a picture of this feedback across multiple stakeholders and projects, what would you find? By asking all the stakeholders, on all your projects over the past twelve months, for feedback – you could start to get a feel for what your clients think sets you apart, in terms of the skills and qualities you bring to their projects.
But more than this, you would also start to get a really interesting insight into what your top skills and qualities are at a wider level, as well as building a personal profile that will help you to bring in more business. Here are some of my top tips when it comes to creating that profile, and what you might gain from doing it:
1. Build your personal brand
As I mentioned above, a personal profile should talk about ‘who you are’ and not ‘what you have done’. Finding out more about what your clients think of you will help you to build your own personal brand – which essentially is what people say about you when you’re not in the room! In the same way that a product brand instantly communicates a set of values – think Mercedes, Harrods or Apple – so your own personal brand will start to communicate what you can offer to a new client.
2. Think about your softer side
Insights into your top personal qualities are much more important than you might think. Many people can have identical technical skills – but their personal, or ‘soft’, qualities will always set them apart. The way in which you do things, and not just what you do, is vital when it comes to fitting in with a new client and their team- and can often be the difference between success and failure in a business relationship.
3. Paint a true picture
CVs and resumes will provide a list of what you have done, but they don’t tell a potential client who you are. What you really need is a profile that allows you to paint a picture of the projects you have worked on, and to highlight your top contributions to these projects. This makes it much easier for a client to understand whether you have the experience, skills and qualities they need – and also to gauge more accurately whether you will fit with their business.
4. Gather meaningful feedback
It’s very important to request feedback from your clients about specific projects that you worked on, and not to just rely on ‘endorsements’ about your skills which don’t describe you accurately – or that come from friends and family, or even people you don’t really know! For a potential client, genuine feedback that comes from real clients and relates to an individual project, is what counts – so focus on that as your primary goal.
5. Optimize your social profile
Social media can help you to create a public profile that describes your top skills and qualities, which you can then use as a ‘calling card’. This will be a richer source of insight than any CV or resume – and will help more clients, who are looking for your skills and qualities, to find you. By understanding what you are best at, based on gathering feedback from your clients, then you can market your strengths – as well as having a better idea of which projects you might choose to take on next!
6. Expand your skill set
By knowing more about what clients are looking for, as well as understanding your own strengths, you will in turn identify opportunities for your own development. It’s always a good thing to keep learning new things – so if you can align that learning with skills which are in demand, you will enhance not only your own knowledge but also your ability to win new business, as your marketable skills base expands.
7. Build a complementary network
Of course, you cannot become an expert in everything or you risk losing focus on your key skills – and most people would prefer not to anyway. But through building your public profile and developing a network using social media, you will identify other individuals who have complementary skills. So when a client has a requirement for something that you are not able to provide, you can add value by making a trusted recommendation – and of course the same will happen in reverse!
These seven tips will hopefully help you to define who you are and what you do best, and will assist you in winning more business as the new year progresses. But beyond this, they will also enable you to gain vital insights on your key strengths, so you can plan your own business strategy over the coming months.
Most people define themselves by their work skills and experience, and think less about the importance of their transferable skills or personal qualities. By understanding more about what you are good at, you will be better placed to explore new opportunities, to change direction into other types of work, or even to take on new challenges outside the business environment. So it could be an even more exciting year than you first thought!