Brokerage Ops the May 2012 issue

Get Over Yourself

Few people are comfortable selling themselves. Here’s how you can make it easier and sound less arrogant.
Posted on May 11, 2012

I work with producers every day to help them shape and define their value proposition. And they need help. Everyone I’ve ever worked with gets stuck when I ask about the unique value they bring to their clients. They can talk about the exclusive products they carry and the company’s commitment to long-lasting partnerships. But when it comes to sharing more about themselves, they clam up. I think it’s hard to toot your own horn without feeling arrogant. My Midwestern values taught me to be humble, say thank you and always clean my plate. So I understand how difficult it can be to talk about yourself.

If you allow yourself the indulgence to think about this, I think you might be shocked at how uniquely valuable you really are. Try talking about value propositions with a group and see if you notice any discomfort or struggle with the conversation.

Here are some tips you can follow to present a more compelling case when you talk about your unique value.

Opening Lines

Choose a few key words to get the conversation started. Don’t obsess over memorizing your 30-second elevator pitch. Have a few bullet points that you can talk about in a quick 10-second snippet and in a longer conversation when relevant.

Your key words should explain your particular approach to what you do. One client likes to start with the phrase, “I like to see myself as the organizer of chaos.” One producer says she tries to inject some fun into her business life amid all the mind-numbing details. She puts her own spin on her value, and it’s uniquely hers. A practice manager I spoke with often starts new business conversations with: “Frankly, we give a (bleep), when others really don’t.” Once he has his prospect’s attention, he then elaborates. Another consultant starts by saying, “We bring new life to what’s gotten stale.” And another: “We help companies remain relevant.”

These are not comprehensive, company-line value propositions. They are key words that start to get at the heart of your unique perspective in a more human, less pre-packaged fashion. Think about what your conversation starter might be. And be sure to have some fun with it.

The Takeaway

Ask yourself: “What do my clients get when they choose me?”

Aside from your unique perspective on the industry and on your clients’ business, you also bring particular values, styles and strengths. Maybe your strength lies in your willingness to deliver the hard truth even when it’s not what clients want to hear. Your best clients appreciate this, so talk about this approach with new prospects. Maybe you were a college athlete and that experience fuels an obsessive level of discipline, focus and drive in everything you do.

Not everyone is so driven. You can talk about your drive without seeming boastful. It’s who you are. Maybe you have a big heart. Maybe you’re a good listener. Maybe you love to solve hard problems. These traits drive your unique approach to serving your clients.

Consider what your traits might be and don’t discount them. They will be more compelling to prospects than you think.

The convergence of what you most love to do, what you are best at and what your prospect most needs and values is the sweet spot where business growth comes most effortlessly.

Don’t be Afraid to ask

If this topic freaks you out, ask a client for help. Pick one of your best clients and ask them why they hired you and what the firm most likes about working with you. This will be uncomfortable. Do it anyway.

Those who know you best often can articulate what you are unable or unwilling to acknowledge or comfortably explain. Then you can use their words when talking to new prospects, such as, “My best clients tell me what they most appreciate about doing business with me is…”

Plan on struggling with this a bit. Everyone does.

It’s worth spending more time on articulating your unique value. Consider that your prospects give something up when they decide not to do business with you. Instead of focusing on beating the competition, focus on making the competition irrelevant.

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