Small Business

You: The Brand


The other week I had the pleasure of speaking to a large group of luxury-home builders. When the conference organizer first contacted me, I thought, "Why would high-end custom-home builders want to listen to a speaker discuss business communications skills?" I soon learned that homebuilders are pitching themselves and their projects all the time -- whether it's proposing a project to a developer, communicating their vision to a buyer, or asking the bank for a loan. These master craftspeople need help crafting the story behind their brand.

Make no mistake, we all represent a brand. It's the brand of you. How you talk, walk, and look reflects on that brand. Do you come across as trustworthy, confident, and competent, or do you fail to captivate your listeners? As I told the custom-home builders, your work, references, and portfolio set the stage, but when you take "the stage," you are the sole experience a listener has with your brand. Whether you're pitching a service, product, company, or cause, here are some qualities shared by great brand spokespeople.

They have passion. Donald Trump said if you don't have passion, you don't have energy, and if you don't have energy, you have nothing. We all want to be surrounded by passionate people. But what are you truly passionate about? Only after you identify your true passion can you ask your customers, colleagues, or employees to go along for the ride.

For example, I asked the homebuilders to identify their passion, their true mission. It didn't take long to realize their passion isn't in the wallboard or concrete. One builder said he wants to create communities that are great places to raise a family. That's his mission, and that's what he communicates to customers. It works. They respect him, share his vision, and believe they're part of something special.

They exude confident body language. Jo Ellen Dimitrius is a high-priced jury consultant skilled at picking jurors who might be favorable to her clients. She bases much of her intuition on body language. Dimitrius once conducted a survey of jurors, and asked what makes a witness appear credible. Body language was cited twice as frequently as any other category.

What does your body language say about your brand? Good posture is associated with confident, competence, and honesty. Slumping or slouching is often associated with a lack of confidence, a lack of energy, and a lack of competence. When communicating the message behind your brand, stand or sit tall, head up, and maintain strong eye contact 80% of the time. Have a warm, agreeable smile on your face. Don't be afraid to use your hands.

Dr. David McNeill studies body language at the University of Chicago. He once told me that complex hand gestures reflect complex thought. McNeill has found that disciplined, rigorous, and confident thinkers use hand gestures that reflect the clarity of their thinking -- a "window to their thought process."

His favorite examples include former President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Watch these people speak. Simply by observing the gestures they make, McNeill can tell that each of these speakers has a methodical, disciplined, and rigorous way of thinking. By reflecting clear thinking, the gestures they use instill confidence in their listeners.

They dress the part. During the homebuilder conference, I met a builder wearing new khakis and a clean, pressed shirt with his company's logo. He said each of his employees is expected to wear clean, pressed, and collared shirts with logos. It helped his brand stand out from competitors who may not put any thought into the visual impression they make.

People notice the details. One female recruiter once told me she looks at shoes -- are they scuffed and worn? If so, it tells her the candidate doesn't pay attention to the details. Luxury-home builders pay attention to the details of their craftsmanship. Why shouldn't they pay the same attention to their appearance?

Again, the spokesperson is at the center of the brand experience. What does your wardrobe say about your brand?

They stay current. Great brand spokespeople are always curious about the world in which they live and conduct business. They're constantly learning, and they bring those teachings into their conversations.

I challenged the homebuilders to tell their customers, employees, or lenders what they learned at the conference: What is the one thing that is new, exciting, and innovative? What is the one thing that their customer may not know? By doing so, it shows the listener that the builder is on the cutting edge of new trends and serves to instill a sense of trust with a project.

Remember that if people like you -- and feel good about you -- they are more likely to invest in you, your service, or your project. So whether you're speaking to an audience of one or 1,000, think about how you project the brand of you. Your brand deserves an extraordinary spokesperson -- and you're it!


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