Guest post by Jean Wright
My career has taught me that everything we do in life involves marketing. From the moment we step outside our front door, we are a package, presenting ourselves to the world with what we wear and what we say. What we do with that package, will determine our success.
Dressing professionally makes a first impression even before you say a word. The type of business we represent determines the dress code. If you’re getting back into the workforce after being home with the kids, be up to date with fashion trends and don’t wear that favorite jacket you saved from the mid 2000’s. Look like you live in current times. Even if you are on a virtual call, professional attire is still important, at least from the waist up.
A first impression sells the package. I’ve been in a room when a woman or man stands up in professional looking attire and then introduces themself and their business with little eye contact and in a subdued voice without enthusiasm. What a disappointment!
If you want to sell your product, tell the room about it, as if you were talking excitedly to your best friend. It’s apparent when someone has little confidence when they don’t speak up or fail to make eye contact with the audience. If you’re not selling yourself, then you’re not showing confidence in what you have to offer.
This is also the moment when trust is built. I tend to trust people who make eye contact with me. When someone introduces themself, presenting their entire package – they should make eye contact, dress the part, and speak confidently. That’s when trust is formed and doing business together will follow.
How can we be more confident when presenting ourselves as a package? When I was growing up, I felt self-conscious about my height. In school, I was always in the last row with the tallest boy for class pictures. I felt relegated to sit in the back of the classroom because I feared no one could see over my head. When I should have felt confident about myself as someone who stood out, I didn’t feel worthy of that attention.
I had to learn that my total package not only included my tall appearance but a personality to go with it. It took time for me to feel comfortable when making an entrance. I had to learn how to be remembered for who I was and not just because I towered over the crowd.
Preparation is Key
The feeling of being in command of a room just because I was tall, eventually forced me feel to more comfortable when speaking in front of people. When you’re the center of attention, you better have something memorable to say. But, if you’re not prepared, confidence will be lost and then you may lose the sale or that connection.
To ensure I had my act together, I joined Toastmasters – an international organization that teaches public speaking skills. I did feel confident of my ability to talk in front of an audience, but I didn’t know if I was doing it correctly. So, I joined the local chapter and delivered speeches at their monthly 7:30am meetings. Being “on” at that hour of the morning was a challenge. I found that memorizing and making speeches involved a lot of practice and caffeine.
I really wanted to speak in a professional manner without a script but trying to memorize my notes really tested my confidence. If I didn’t rehearse enough, I might lose my way and start scrambling for words. I could either crumble and fold or gather my inner strength and confidently finish my speech.
After delivering our speeches, the members’ critiques would help us hone our speaking skills. We learned how to use voice inflection, create visual pictures, inject humor, gestures, and tell stories. In other words, techniques that kept the audience glued to the speaker’s every word. These techniques became part of my “package.”
In some situations, you don’t even realize how presenting your “package” can affect someone else. I served as president of our community’s social organization and a new resident had been skeptical about joining. Our development was set in a rural area – completely opposite from the suburban Philadelphia neighborhood this woman moved from. She told me a story about her husband, who, while showing her around our town, drove past the Farm and Feed Store. She said she broke down in tears fearing they had moved to Green Acres.
After attending the meeting and hearing my presentation about our organization, she confessed that because I was professionally dressed and spoke well, she knew that she would feel comfortable with our group. She felt reassured that I represented a community she would fit into, like her previous neighborhood. I presented the package that she could relate to and sold her on joining the club. To this day, she still recounts her first impression of me and how her membership has provided her lifelong friends.
Build Confidence and Be Yourself
Other women I’ve known have used their attitude and image as confidence builders. A business coach told me that wearing high heels makes her feel empowered when delivering her message to the audience. It was amazing to learn that something so simple like how she felt in those shoes built her confidence. In a different way, the female CEO of a local organization told me that she sings a rock anthem in her car before addressing a crowd. It is her way to prepare to be more confident when delivering a speech.
Over time, I’ve learned to prepare well and be myself when speaking to groups so that my confidence stays intact. Then, I have the audience in the palm of my hand thanks to my preparation, delivery, and professional appearance. Voila! I’ve sold the package. And that’s what it’s all about – being comfortable presenting yourself in a professional way, both visually and verbally, brings confidence to just about everything you do.
Jean Wright is a successful saleswoman and author. An excerpt from her upcoming book Selling Confidence was recently published in Entrepreneur magazine. [email protected]
Enter the text or HTML code here