A business’s confidence is key to its success.
A confident business does not have to apologise for its existence – it can just get on with providing a great product or service.
In an owner/managed business such as ours the level of business confidence conveyed is directly related to the confidence you as the owner have in yourself and your business proposition. Even a business which offers great service and is well respected by its customers can be undermined, if you continually doubt yourself.
So how do you keep your confidence levels boosted?
Firstly, make sure you give you offer a great service, which you can easily describe to third parties. Productising elements of your service can make it easier for potential customers to understand what you do.
Talk to your customers so you are clear why they buy from you. Although this might be hard at first, it will enable you to talk confidently to prospective clients about the effectiveness of what you do.
Whilst you are talking to your customers, ask them for testimonials. Not only can you use them in your marketing, they will also boost your confidence.
If you know where you want your business to go, you can confidently decide what you need to do to get you there. So, have a robust, regularly updated business plan. Alongside this, try to build a great business skills base. There are many facets to even small businesses, so the more you know about each of them the more effective, and confident, you will be.
Be part of a strong business network. Business networks are a fundamental part of raising the profile of your business and finding support locally. Regular contact with other business owners, many of whom face similar problems to yours, will help make running your business less lonely too.
Finally, think about how you are presenting yourself. If you are well prepared, wear the right clothes for the right occasion, and think about your body language, you will be best able to express yourself confidently.
It’s interesting how large sporting occasions can inspire us. How many of us runners find ourselves with more of a spring in our step having watched the World Athletics Championships or the Olympics? Just seeing world class athletes such as Mo Farah achieve fantastic results can leave an imprint on us.
And I think we can all do with inspiration. When times are tough it is very easy to start focussing on the negative and to get bogged down with what things are not going to plan. A far more positive approach is to move past those obstacles and focus on what you can do to move forward. Concentrate on those things you can change rather than on those things you can’t.
At the end of the day we live in a pretty prosperous country and have terrific opportunities residents of the developing world could only dream of.
Someone I find really inspiring is the para-athlete Mark Ormrod. He spoke at the CIMA Members in Practice conference a couple of years ago and got a rare, but well deserved, standing ovation. Despite losing 3 limbs in Afghanistan Mark has fought all adversity to build an exceptional life for himself and his family. In fact he has just competed in the Invictus games where he won four medals and got an exceptional performance award from Prince Harry.
People do extraordinary things. These people are usually extraordinary individuals but if we can take inspiration from their example we can become, if not extraordinary ourselves, certainly more positive and motivated.
Over the years we build up layers of experience and learning, in our case based on our CIMA qualification, and this experience and learning helps us to be good at what we do. Many of the skills we acquire we are barely conscious that we have, because they are so ingrained in who we have become. However, they are often the skills that our clients most value.
Over the last few months I have had the privilege of spending some quality time with some great CIMA members in practice whilst running my workshops.
It got me thinking about what makes us as CIMA MiPs so great. The particularly important talents we have are not ones learned through doing the CIMA qualification, but are as a result of the journey that took us down the CIMA route in the first place and have continued since.
So what are these magic talents:
1. Curiosity. We want to know what makes our clients tick. Curiosity may have killed the cat but it certainly makes for a much more effective professional!
2. We care. Curiosity leads us to get closer to our clients and their businesses, which means that we care deeply what happens to them. This means clients know they are in hands that will only do the best for them – even if tough love is sometimes required.
3. We want to enlighten and share. We know that we are of best value to clients if they have a clarity and understanding of their business’s financial situation. Unlike some other accountants who think they weaken their own position with clients if they explain what the numbers mean.
Unsurprisingly most of the MiPs in the workshops had not really noticed that they had these skills, nor recognised their value. Instead they concentrated on just their accountancy skills when talking to prospects.
Hopefully the workshop helped them to see the full range of skills they have to offer.
Perhaps it’s worth taking time to think more about your own ‘hidden’ skills!
Trevor Lever has been a great supporter of my business over the years and is a terrific sales effectiveness coach. Although Trevor is now looking to take a bit of a back seat these days he has been kind enough to share his brilliance with me.
I am very pleased to say that he has given me care of his cats as he doesn’t have as much use for them as he did! I am sure he won’t mind me sharing them with you because as MiPs we often struggle with the sales side of our business.
There are four sales cat types: trader cat, poacher cat, farmer cat and hunter cat. As business owners we will often have an affinity for one particular cat but need to be able to ‘play’ at being any cat.
Trader cats are the classic networkers who work hard to develop advocates they can trade referrals with. Reciprocation is the name of their game.
Farmer cats spend most of their time working with existing clients to increase the value of goods and services they can ‘sell’ to them – they concentrate on cultivation.
Poacher cats stalk businesses with the types of clients they want and their clients away. They will use differentiation to make themselves appealing to customers.
Hunter cats are excited by finding new opportunities and new customers who have never used their type of service before. Hunters use education to help new clients understand what they have to offer.
I have to say that of all these types of cat I myself have been least comfortable with being a hunter – and I expect most accountants would feel the same way.
However, I have had to become much more brave in approaching brand new customers since I have started providing workshops and mentoring for members in practice.
I have had to become more of a “hunter”. It really has not been enough to stay in my corner of the forest waiting for people to come to me!
Although it has been a challenge I am becoming braver by the day!