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Turn the lens around

It’s a tough task for job-seekers. And independent professionals seeking clients. And sales people hoping to create new customer relationships. In short, just about anyone in any business runs into the challenge of talking about themselves … while putting their focus on somebody else.

I was coaching people in transition last week, listening to them struggle with my suggestion to speak about the people they serve before they launch into how perfect they are for the job. The idea is to frame their description of their own value in the context of what a potential employer needs.

The way to do that is to talk about the people they serve first. And then, when they’ve established that they “get” those people, describe the value they’d bring to the organization.

One after another, they agreed to take that on. And then they began talking. “I help companies …” “I have 22 years of experience managing non-profits …” “I’m an IT professional …” And so on.

I’d ask them, “Who was that about?” And every time, the question seemed puzzling. Then when they thought back to how they began, remembering the subject of their opening sentence, they conceded, “It was about me.”

Here’s the harsh reality.

Nobody cares about who I am or what I do … until I give them a reason to care. And yes, that goes for you, too.

Even if they’ve asked us, “What do you do?” Even if they’ve agreed to a meeting with us. Even if they’ve invited us to interview for the open position at their company. They’re not really interested in us until we make it clear why they should be interested.

And we do that by focusing on them. Their needs, their challenges, their objectives—and how we can support them.

It goes against the grain, doesn’t it?

We’re so used to going after the job, the client, or the assignment by touting our outstanding work, deep experience, and stellar personal characteristics. We’re here to accomplish a goal … and we fall into the trap of thinking we can do that by telling them how wonderful we are.

The more individuals who took a shot at it and defaulted to “I’m a …” the more it became clear that this is hard habit to break.

So, I brought out my selfie stick.

Okay, I’m kidding. I didn’t take a selfie. I did deploy my turn-the-lens-around analogy as a way to help them get the concept of beginning with their focus on the people they serve instead of on themselves. And it worked so well, I’m bringing it up here, with you.

Imagine that I offered to show you all the selfies on my phone. There are, I don’t know, maybe 50 or 60 of them. They go back to January of 2012, so they cover a lot of ground.

You’re not remotely interested in my selfies, are you? All those pictures of me, really? Even if you like me, you don’t want to spend time looking at all those old photos.

On the other hand, what if I told you the last time you and I were together, I took a picture of you? And it’s really good, it captured your smile, and you looked just great. Can I show you that picture? Of course I can! You’d love to take a look at that one.

Because the lens was pointed at you rather than me, it captured your interest.

You can have the same impact in your conversations.

Focus on them first. Who do you serve? What’s the pickle they’re in? What would the promised land look like for them—if their biggest challenges were solved, what would that mean for their business?

Then tell them how you can help them get to that promised land. What do you offer that they need?

Or maybe you’re an accentuate-the-positive person? That’s cool—flip the format.

Who do you serve? What would their business look like in a perfect world? If the whole company’s firing on all cylinders, how would that be? Paint a rosy picture of success for them. And then … what are the hurdles facing them now? What’s in between them and that ideal state?

Now, how would you help them move past the hurdles and settle into that scene of success you described?

Yes, it works.

I’ve already heard from a woman who was in my session last week. She used the strategy in her interview a couple days later, got great feedback from the interviewer, and is optimistic she’ll be their final choice for the job. How cool is that?

And somebody else was quoting my don’t-show-them-your-selfies strategy on LinkedIn the day after our workshop. Listeners touting what they heard from us? That makes a speaker’s heart sing.

I’ll invite you to turn the lens around in your sales calls, networking meetings, and job interviews … focus on them before you get into what you can do for them … and let me know how it goes.