You're unlikely to win a major contract if you can't prove that you are technically qualified. But when you're up against equally qualified competitors it's your ability to build trust and rapport with the client that could swing things in your favour. But what is rapport, and how do you go about achieving it?
Authenticity is critical and absolutely fundamental. If you're trying to build rapport and trust, this won't happen if you're hiding behind a mask or putting some kind of dummy in front of your client.
When other factors are almost identical (such as price, technical solution and capability) it is people who are the difference between one team and another. Who does the client 'trust' most to meet their underlying needs and get the job done? Trust is built on the rapport you build during presentations and meetings and rapport is built on your authenticity.
If you possess the acting skills of Marlon Brando you may be able to convince the client that you are a different person. But for most of us it's better to focus on making a human connection by bringing our true personality to presentations and meetings. People can spot a phoney! At worst the pretence will create distrust and suspicion and, even if you almost get away with it, you'll have lost an opportunity to build rapport, persuade and influence. You want people to focus on what you're saying rather than working out your motive for saying it.
Building Personal Credibility
If the key is authenticity, how do we make sure our true self shines through in a way that builds our personal credibility? Here's a few areas you can focus on:
Voice. Speak clearly and with authority, and pause often to allow your audience to take in what you’re saying. Again, base this on your natural voice and speaking style. I once saw a presenter completely lose an audience by switching into a school debating society mode of delivery - completely unnatural and completely unconvincing. Of course you are going to have to 'project' a little more in a presentation but be wary of trying to 'sound like a presenter'.
Content. Be genuine. People know when we’re saying things we don’t really believe, or saying it in a way that doesn't match up with who we are. Frame things in words and phrases that come naturally, so you say them with confidence and integrity.
Facial expressions. Relax and be natural. Forced smiles and other forms of feigned sincerity and enthusiasm are easily detected by audience members. I guess we all recall the unfortunate Gordon Brown video when one of his advisers had told him he needed to smile more often. Any percieved dishonesty throws into question everything we’re telling people, undermining our credibility and destroying any previously created rapport.
Attire. When we are being interviewed or presenting we are often obliged to wear a suit, which may not be our usual business attire (especially in the construction business). It is most likely the normal dress code for our client, so we need to conform in order to comply with their expectations. BUT just because we have changed our attire to conform doesn't mean we change anything else about ourselves. Make sure it's still the real you under the suit.
Body language. Many people believe that they must conform to some stereo-typical persona, and try to introduce exaggerated mannerisms to demonstrate this. Presumably the intention is to come across as more dynamic and decisive. All you'll do is to distract yourself from what you should be saying as you’re focused on the 'act'. You may need to slightly accentuate or modify some of your normal mannerisms but usually by a factor of less than 20%
Eye contact. Be warm and genuine. Make eye contact that is direct and prolonged enough to say, I see you and I’m paying attention to you, but don’t stare aggressively. Eye contact is crucial in building rapport and is one of the most direct means of receiving feedback from the client; they should frequently nod or smile at you to acknowledge the connection between you.
Passion. We are more influential when we’re passionate about our subject, but we don’t have to effuse to show passion. It might be contained in the quality of our content, the cool confidence of our delivery, the light in our eyes, or simmering facial expressions. It should be something we genuinely feel and which emerges naturally, rather than being turned on like a tap.
Every one of us is different so we need to use whichever combination of the above works best for us. But make sure that you use at least some of these techniques as appropriate to the circumstances and the occasion. Preparation and awareness of the impact you are creating are key, as is the flexibility to alter your style to respond to feedback.
The bottom line is “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
The Bid Coach.
Call me on (01963) 240555 or email email@example.com to discuss how I can help you deliver winning presentations. www.thebidcoach.co.uk
Read more about presentation skills coaching; non-verbal communication
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I have many years of senior sales and account management positions.
This experience taught me how to interpret exactly what clients are seeking, and what they need and expect to see and hear from the successful bidder. We draw on this experience to give your team an additional competitive advantage by building on their existing strengths while improving their team-working and self-awareness.