Charisma Sells! Part I

Use Your Charisma to Sell Professional Services: Part I

  • If you’re a provider of professional services, do you have trouble convincing clients they should hire your firm without demanding any discount?
  • Do you have difficulty convincing buyers there’s no need to request any alterations to your pitch, as yours is already a premium service that’s perfect for their needs?
  • And, if you’re one of several bidders, do you struggle to position your firm as the top dog?
prof servs 1

What makes some service providers shine brighter?

If so, you are not alone. The world over, professionals are besieged with ever-louder customer demands for rethinks, redraftings, new interpretations, something different; and always something much, much cheaper than the original asking price.

Architects exprience this; so do workaday lawyers, accountants, advisers, editors – and above all management consultants, who must sometimes reinvent and redefine their product a dozen times before winning grudging client acceptance.

architect 2

Drawing – and redrawing – a daily experience for some professionals

Being part of an organisation with a powerful brand certainly helps, but services are people-driven and the client is buying your competencies, not the institution itself.

Service providers, of course, are basically selling their time and if not their own intellectual property, then diagnostic and troubleshooting skills they’ve built up over years of experience. So accepting a discount is a de facto skills devaluation, implying lower worth to the client. Acceptance can mean sagging self-esteem.

Now there is a way for you to turn all this around. This blog post is dedicated to helping service professionals to differentiate the way offerings are presented, and so drag themselves out of the “discount bracket.”

The answer is charisma, something that lies within you but may be hidden from view.  When it works, the effects are immediate. We’ve all experienced that moment when it’s clear  that by some magical process we have been “bought in” and the client regards our presence at the decision-making table to be both natural and necessary.

We’ll show you how you can use charisma to boost your influence, nurturing behaviours that win acceptance, lower barriers of belief and gather trust.

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Seven colours and seven dimensions for service providers with influence

To find out more about charisma and its application  to modern business life, visit You’ll find diverse blog entries exploring such themes as power and influence, communicating through effective body language, and whether charisma is an innate gift or learned behaviour.

You can also decide whether you would like to take a self-assessment test to find out more about your own charisma. To do so, you’ll first need to contact us via email or  the comment space below. You may wish to join one of our workshops.

But first let’s focus on the practical application of charisma. What separates one group we’ll call the ‘Influencers’ who sell they work for top dollar, from the ‘Malleables,’ who may be forced to accept discounts even though their work may be of just as good quality?

heart surgeon 1

Trust me – and don’t ask for a discount.

We all know ‘Influencer’ service providers whose product is accepted unquestioningly because they are opinion formers or fashionistas. If we work in the same narrow field we may recognise glaring weaknesses that clients are wholly blind to. Yet somehow that doesn’t matter one bit.

On the other side of the fence we find the ‘Malleables.’ These are people whose work, however worthy, gets squeezed, questioned, and downgraded.

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Malleable types go back to the drawing board

If business life is a metaphorical cocktail party, then these are the waiters handing around trays loaded with canapés or drinks at cocktail parties where favoured guests continually plead favours or special treatment. “This is full sugar. Can you fetch me a Diet Coke?” Or “Have you got any vegan paté/kosher crackers back in the kitchen you could find specially for me?” Or “I can’t believe this is all you have to offer me.”


Are clients treating your services like this?

So what divides the two groups and what determines whether one idea must be offered with a discount, while another commands a premium? You might expect the short answer to be a mix of “chutzpah,” “braggadoccio,” and sheer assertiveness.

But we all know that’s not the answer. Sometimes the most effective sales people who get clients eating out of their hand seem to be hardly even trying, and they certainly aren’t pushy or aggressive.

It all comes down to charisma. Winning influence, gaining trust and being rewarded with acceptance, are all classic charisma attributes. To explore the definition, you can visit the Communicate Charisma website and get to know the Seven Dimensions of charisma.


Trust me too – and don’t ask for a discount

Nor does success necessarily mean using those high-wattage charisma attributes we associate with extroverted energy such as self-assurance, drive or vision. Often, establishing common ground through empathy, collaboration or values will prove just as effective in triggering an “uncomplaining buy” signal from those needing services. Fundamentally, of course, any vendor of services must be able to transmit the unquestioning belief that his or her solution will add the most value for clients.


Charisma could bring added rigour and energy to communicating the benefits of your service to clients.

It comes down to much more than luck, or hope. A lucky few have developed the skill – often unconsciously – of deploying their natural charisma assets to best effect, and this translates into sales. You’d never dream of haggling with a heart surgeon or a trial lawyer, or demand  that either  adopts different tactics. So why shouldn’t people regard what you do in the same way?

To get there, the  rest of us may need to adopt a more conscious learning process, which has three stages.

  • First, we need to visualise, map and measure the charisma we already possess (and yes, everyone has some of it).
  • Second, we can learn to recognise authentic charismatic behaviours in ourselves and others as well as gaining insights into the style of “Great Communicators.”.
  • Finally, we initiate a process of personal development and awareness that over time, helps us manage and makes best use of our charisma.

These three stages form the core of the Communicate Charisma approach which combines online self-assessment tools, workshops, and guided personal development.

In the next posting, we’ll analyse each of the Seven Dimensions of charisma and see how service leaders use them to help the sales process.


FIFA to Brazil: “Let’s get this party started!”

My football-mad teenage son is baffled – and so is an army of journalists, sports pundits and FOBs (Friends of Brazil). Why has Brazil spent the 12 months preceding the 2014 World Cup in such a sulky and fractious mood? And just days before the kickoff, why hasn’t the party started?

MaracanaThe answer is: because urban Brazil is living an out-of-time 1960s moment with an emergent counterculture that doesn’t do FIFA’s cuckoo-clock precision and for-TV displays of national unity – all brought to you by the good grace of credit card companies or cola vendors.

Think Danny le Rouge at the Paris barricades. Think Black Consciousness. Think Yippies and Merry Pranksters in California. Think of British voters being told by their out-of-touch leader: “You’ve never had it so good” – and soon afterward  the opposition sweeping into power as the Swinging Sixties kicked off.

Paris 2Fanciful? Bear with me and further down this post I’ll explain why.

My son – he’s half Brazilian – knows the very worst thing you can say about about people or events in Brazil is that they’re “desanimado” – lacking in spirit, enthusiasm or dash. Hosting a party where nobody dances  and there is no “animação” is social death. Standing on the sidelines and refusing to join in the collective euphoria makes you a social pariah in Brazil.

Yet just days before a party of monumental proportions begins, a whole nation of 190 million is “desanimado” and ambivalent, grumpy or almost apologetic.

Will things be changed by the arrival of 500,000 raucous foreigners with their heads filled with the Brazilian beachparty stereoptypes of Samba/Carnival and futebol? I’m betting ever-hospitable Brazilians won’t want to disappoint their guests and the party will indeed kick off. And of course, Brazil is the nation where Carnival comes together only at the last minute.

vivaSo yes, the 2014 World Cup will be a success, and in social media terms #vaitercopasim and #vaitercopapracaralho (“We will have a World Cup”, and “It will be a fucking good World Cup”) will gain millions more followers and likes than #naovertercopa. (“The World Cup won’t happen”). Opinion formers like the Economist also think the event will take place with only subdued local protest.

Nao va terYet just weeks before the tournament began, I was in São Paulo struggling to find any FIFA-related tourist tat in the stores. Nor at the end of April were there any green-and-yellow painted streets or pavements plus the usual heady Copa atmosphere I remembered from back in the 1980s. Local taxi drivers (always the resource of slothful foreign correspondents) were vocal repeating-stations of dour pessimism. “Tomara que percam logo” ( “I hope the Brazilian side loses”) was one I heard several times.

Foreign correspondents I met in the city were similarly baffled. Why were things so subdued? And how could it be that a nation whose populist identity has since the late 1940s been carefully crafted around global soccer supremacy, could be deeply ambivalent about a defining event taking place on its own doorstep?

So in recent weeks how could the prevailing narrative have been so thoroughly seized by #naovertercopa and those portraying the evils of the FIFA event at every possible street demo, that even Brazil’s uncrowned king, Pelé (hitherto an unrepentant booster of all things FIFA) now sounds like a hesitant and insincere voice crying in the wilderness? “The money spent on the stadiums was a lot, and in some cases was more than it should have been,” apologised Pele.

Stadium toiletInstead the government finds itself on something like a war footing against its own people, spending lavishly to rent a squadron of pilotless surveillance drones and their Israeli flight managers, to hire former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani to advise on crowd control, plus an unnamed cast of security men still with Afghani sand in their trouser turn-ups. To say the least of levies from the Brazilian armed forces, its state militia and civil police all trained and ready.

None of this has stopped a rash of strikes, demonstrations, marches and bad feeling. There certainly will be a World Cup. The eve of tournament demonstrations haven’t been that big — but they were a year ago when I was visiting São Paulo. If today the demonstrators have become more media savvy (writing their placards in English) and  skilfully targeting logistics, in June 2013 it felt like a generalised wave of complaint.

protestThe FIFA-approved camera angles inside each stadium are tightly plotted – as are those approved for seat allocations that will be in camera view. The media is already reporting there won’t be sufficient bandwidth for in-stadium tweeting by all fans who want to. Foreign journalists are also being warned about potential limitations to internet connectivity. Perhaps there’s a veiled threat in there.

vai terLet’s set aside the rights and wrongs of the long litany of protests about domestic social, economic and political ills within Brazil that has been steadily growing since the June 2013 demonstrations coinciding with the Confederations Cup matches that served as a warm-up to the June/July 2014 event. It’s now a rolling story and you can read about these issues in every newspaper and media outlet from reporters way better-informed than I who are on the case, such as my friend Mac Margolis.

And let’s also set aside the squabbling with FIFA and a rising tide of discontent with the multinational (or should that read Swiss) governance of sporting mega-events and the financial exploitation of emerging markets, all in the name of making sport the global campaigning arm of what used to be called the “Washington Consensus.” Spreading western values through democracy may have hit a rough patch after the Arab Spring, Tahrir Square, and Crimea debacles, but the job is being carried on nicely through international sport.

Something has changed with Brazil’s social consensus – and it’s all coming out on the eve of  the World Cup. The underside of social transformation is discontent. Obviously, complaining about inequality/corruption/bad governance won’t affect the tournament outcome. Yet becoming a mature democracy means people exercise their right to complain about things. And that’s a bit like rape statistics – meaning they don’t necessarily record a worsening over time, but the reporting is higher as people feel more confident about their right to complain.

demosComplain about what? The country is much, much richer than it was when I lived there in the 1980s. Material and social progress has been stunning. Corruption and police violence are no worse than before. Drug related crime is (probably) on a long-term downward trend, despite horrendous blips. There is near-full employment. Brazil occupies a bigger place in the world (despite a misguided diplomacy that attempts to be friends with all and the critic of none).

Everything should be peachy. But from repeated return trips there I can conclude Brazil is not a happier place than before – and the so-far chilly reception for the World Cup proves it.

So back to my idea of Brazil reliving its 1960s moment. Actually for this one I’m indebted to my friend Julia Michaels, doyenne of the Rio-based opinion-formers, who noticed a return of Afro hairstyles and an emergent, California style counterculture.

black consciousnessMatch this sense of diversity and protest with real-time social media’s capacity to organise demos, rolezinhos (flash-mob type events inside shopping centres), and you have a powerful mix.

The net of all this is that the carefully engineered social consensus that lasted long after the 1964-1985 military years, giving Brazil such slogans as “Brasil: ame-o ou deixe-o” (Brazil: love it or leave it), is unravelling.

The country has reached a point where diversity, not unity, is what defines it. The late 19th century Brazilian project embroidered on the national flag “Order and Progress” has – more or less – been delivered. Yet there’s nothing to replace it, no natural focus of forward evolution.

People I speak to feel as anxious, uncertain and downright unhappy as at any time in the past three decades – and that’s all coming home to roost just at the World Cup comes to town.  Hositing a World Cup is supposed to be a globally televised set-piece of national unity and homogeneity.

But it’s turned into something very different – and that must be giving  Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff pause for thought as she contemplates her re-election bid this autumn. If I’m right about the  Sixties theme, then she might turn out to be the General De Gaulle of this particular moment of protest. True, she comes from the other side of the spectrum (she was a youthful urban guerrilla), but she has lectured and hectored her citizens about the need to cheer up and enjoy their bread and circuses.

Which will give the men who control global sport food for thought as they contemplate what comes after Brazil 2014. The next two stunningly ill-conceived venues — Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 – could put the cap on the notion of sport (rather then democracy) carrying western values for a century into the future.

What the World Cup is showing is that economic prosperity doesn’t equal satisfaction. Or, as they said in the Sixties: Money Can’t Buy Me Love.”

Fifa go home