“Wow, your baby sure is ugly!” When was the last time you heard someone say this? Maybe never because no one is willing to say that -- out loud! How about this one? “Your clothing, marketing message, and overall business image are not referable.” Ouch, that hurts.
We occasionally think this about the people we meet, like that attorney wearing an ill-fitting suit that appears to be from the 1970s, or the HVAC guy who looks like he slept in his uniform. Before expecting others to refer business to you, have you taken a close look in the mirror?
Related: 5 Steps to Build Your Personal Brand
I’ve seen thousands of people join networking groups over the years and focus heavily on building their new network but forget to take a good hard look at themselves. I’m challenging you to make an honest appraisal of yourself and ask, “Am I worthy of business referrals?” Here are five ways to sharpen your image, thereby increasing your referability.
1. Define your Emotional Charged Connection.
If you are asked seven times this week, “What do you do for a living?” do you respond with seven different variations of the answer? Human beings are creatures of habit, but somehow that doesn’t apply to our marketing message. Your Emotional Charged Connection (ECC) should be scripted and make you stand out. This combination will have lasting impressions on others and, most importantly, it’s repeatable. For example, Nanette Polito, a trainer for Referral Institute Cincinnati, answers the question “What do you do for a living?” this way: “I help small-business owners and entrepreneurs get more base hits and home runs for their businesses.”
2. Walk your talk.
Do what you say in less time than you promise. Be on time for meetings, and don’t check your phone while others are talking to you. (If it’s a temptation, leave it in the car.) If you are not going to do something, don’t say you will. Follow up on everything and with everyone. What you do thunders so loudly above your head that I cannot hear the words you speak.
3. Dress for success.
If you are a mechanic and you wear a three-piece suit to a business meeting, one might assume you’re on your way from a court hearing. Whatever people in your profession typically wear -- uniform, sport shirt with your business logo or a suit and tie -- just be sure to wear it well. Invest in sharp new clothing every year with impeccable fit and in colors that complement you. Tuck it in, button it up and trim it back. People notice. Finally, if you look like you are taking the day off when you are really not, we’ll assume you are casual about growing your business, too.
4. Be self-aware.
Eighty percent of someone’s perceptions of you are based on your nonverbal cues. This includes your posture, eye contact, facial expressions, mannerisms and any verbal repetitions. People love to notice these things about you but seldom bring them to your attention. One example might be overusing a phrase when speaking, such as “Does that make sense?” There are other ways to ask this, such as “OK so far?” or “Any questions to this point?” Many times, we are completely unaware of our verbal repetitions because we say them out of habit. Ask someone you trust if you are using any unnecessary verbal repetitions or other annoying nonverbal habits like jiggling change in your pocket or hair twirling.
5. Keep a professional social media presence.
I like to relax and catch up with friends on Facebook and LinkedIn, just like the next person. However, it’s important to that your professional image exists both offline and online. That’s not to say you can’t have fun and share a joke or funny picture on Facebook. But do be aware that people are judging you by your online behavior. Be passionate about your beliefs, but voicing them to the masses on social media can easily backfire. Want to lose friends and alienate people? By all means, go ahead and post something controversial about politics, religion or sex. On the other hand, be sure to let folks know you are a human being and not an unfeeling robot. Two of every three posts on your personal social media channels should include something about your life, family, hobbies, interests and goals. If everything you put out there is all business, you may notice you’ll have very few comments and likes on your posts.
Your baby is not ugly; it’s beautiful. Your business image is not ugly; it’s also beautiful and worthy of referrals. We are so often focused on the externals that we forget to reflect on ourselves. Nothing else will matter unless our personal brand and referability are in order. After all, we are our biggest advertisement.
Now that you’re confident that your “baby” is indeed beautiful, the next step is to make sure others notice it, too.