4 Phrases That Kill Your Brand Influence


I’ve been meeting a lot of new people lately. If you’re a soloprenuer, coach, or consultant then you know just how important networking is to your success.

The trick to networking is making it effective by elevating your brand. The challenge is, how do you define “effective” networking? Do you think networking is only effective if it results in sales? If you said yes, then I have to blast the buzzer on you and say: EEEE wrong answer! Here’s a story to prove it: 

I recently went to a lunch with a new network connection. After a few moments of chatting, she proceeded to dive into all the things she thought I should do with my business. As she started to evaluate and advise, I remained curious thinking, “wow, does she not understand how off-putting this is since she knows nothing about me?” Did her tips have value? Maybe, but I didn’t hear any of them. Why? Because I didn’t know her and I didn’t ask, therefore I didn’t care. It was the approach – not necessarily the advice – that killed her ability to positively influence me. As a result, I’m not likely to become her client or refer her to anyone else.  #BrandKiller

Of course we network to expand our businesses. But equating networking to sales alone is a mistake. Just this morning I met a coffee shop owner who told me, “I want to do business with people I like.” BOOM! There it is. Think about the last time you chose to do business with someone you didn’t like… I’ll wait. Either you didn’t think of an example or once you realized you didn’t like them, the business relationship stopped.  

The opening conversation in networking is about building rapport. It’s about getting to know each other. If you don’t know me, how can you like me and trust me enough to want to hear what I have to say? With that in mind, here are five phrases that kill your brand and future business opportunities.

4 Phrases that Kill Your Brand Influence

1. “Why didn’t you…?”
When you ask “why” you are making the other person wrong. If someone I just met tells me a story of their experience, that means they are trusting me. The last thing I want to do is judge and evaluate their actions. There is likely a lot of context that I don’t know in their story. If you are curious to know why, try “What made you…?” instead. These first-meeting conversations are all about building a relationship so trust can grow. Don’t kill it before you even get started. 

2. “You should”
When I hear this phrase, I know there are good intentions behind it. But what many fail to realize is that “should” is a violent word. Yes, I said violent. This is how author, mediator and psychologist Marshall Rosenberg characterizes it in his book Nonviolent Communication.  “We were not meant to succumb to the dictates of “should” and “have to,” whether they come from outside or inside of ourselves” he writes. Avoid “should” toward yourself and definitely don’t “should” on me!

3. “You Need”
Again, it’s not that the use of this phrase means there’s a bad intention. But it’s so prescriptive that it raises a red flag in networking. I can’t help but think, “We just met. How do you know what I need? Are you psychic?” Best case scenario, let’s say you have an idea or an experience for a new connection that you believe may help. You could use, “have you considered…?” instead of “you need.”

Another approach to sharing your opinion is, “This sounds like something I’ve been through before. Would you like to know how I overcame it?” If they say yes, then carry on. But allowing them a chance to accept the advice is a powerful move they’ll appreciate. Doing so will build your brand influence.
Notice these two options are questions. As Dale Carnegie said, “To be interesting, be interested.”

4. Agree without really meaning it   

This is more of a behavior than a phrase and it boils down to integrity. If you act interested but aren’t, know that you aren’t doing anyone a favor by faking it. If you like the person but don’t need what they have, then be both friendly AND honest. Think of someone who may need what they have and refer. One of my networking connections told me she had 6-8 referrals for me and then proceeded to copy me on those 6-8 emails to those people. She built her brand influence with me by acting in integrity. Going forward, I will have a strong desire to support her efforts.  

Networking To Build Your Brand

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “business is all about relationships.” So, how are relationships built? By having good conversations, of course!   

Quality conversations build the know, like and trust factor. Tell a story, share a hobby, share your values, share a previous experience you’ve been through. And be sure to ask them about theirs. All of this is more influential than your sales pitch. Because without your unique story, it sounds exactly like anyone else who shares your profession. 

That lunch date I mentioned concluded with my new connection telling me about her hobby as an artist. If she would have opened with that, I would have been curious and asked her about her work. And that’s the secret sauce!

Once we get to know, get to like and get to trust each other our curiosity is piqued. And that’s when we ask, “so, what do you do?” At that point you’ve earned the opportunity to share your expertise and be influential.

So, how many stories do you have to share? Do they showcase your value and help others get to know you? Have you shared any of them on video? If you could use help creating and sharing your story, let’s chat!

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