These days, potential clients can find out so much about you without leaving their desk. A quick Google search will expose rich seams of information about you and your team.
Managing this online information to portray a positive, professional image is a critical task for all businesses. But don’t get carried away and forget that the reality still has to match the image you craft.
Up to a few years ago all brands needed to worry about online was the company website. In reality these were not much more than putting company brochures on the internet. Clients accepted that these were essentially selling tools and probably took everything you said about yourself with a hefty pinch of salt.
Previously the big challenge was to get in front of the client. You could then bring your interpersonal, presentation and selling skills to bear. But now, the selling process often starts much earlier and much less formally, thanks to the internet and social networks.
When do clients make up their mind about you?
Today there are social media channels, company blogs, videos and a host of sources that (should) feel more authentic and less like marketing. Judgments may be formed from individual LinkedIn profiles just as much as traditional marketing channels.
There are plenty of experts to advise you on how to maximise online opportunities to paint a positive online picture of your business. This might include how you write LinkedIn profiles, what you post, and how you post it, across a range of channels. These are all great opportunities to create the right impression and start building relationships – and you absolutely should be exploiting them.
Online reputation management should be a major focus for all businesses. Consistent messages about your competence and approach should flow through every point of presence. The more cynical might even say that you can present yourself online as almost anything you want to be or wish you were.
The moment of truth
But eventually a client is going to want to meet you. They might even invite you to make a presentation. What happens then? Does the image you’ve constructed so carefully shatter into a thousand shards of disillusionment?
Presenting your business and your team as ‘highly professional’ and confident online is one thing. Maintaining that image in a high-pressure presentation or all-important first meeting requires a different set of skills. Even if a potential client has formed a really positive image of you from your online presence, the one that will stick in their minds is still the one they get when they first meet you.
A yawning gap between your online image and how you and your team project yourselves in person will just amplify the negative impression. ‘You claim to be experts but you can’t explain what you do in words that I can understand.’
So perhaps your moment of truth needs to come a bit earlier. Read all of the things you say about your business and your team online, and ask yourself whether that’s what a new prospective client is likely to see. Get a coach to make an honest and impartial assessment of the impression your real self (rather than your online self) is likely to project, and make the comparison.
You can then start working on the gaps between aspiration and reality. That way, your first face to face meeting will confirm and reinforce all the positive things your new client believes about you.
Hugh Graham, The Bid Coach
Need to sharpen your presentation and customer handling skills? Get in touch for a free initial discussion.
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.