Or observed a colleague talking to a prospect in a sales situation, asking all the right questions at all the right moments, and admired how they handled things.
Quite often, when we talk to others about our viewpoint on these individuals we will say something about that person we admire like “Oh, he’s clearly a natural presenter” or “He was born to be a Salesman”.
While I believe that it is true that some people find it easier to take to certain roles – in the majority of cases, the individual involved has worked hard to make sure they appear like a “natural”.
In my experience, this is especially true of what people classify as “Soft Skills” – the ability to talk to people, empathise with them, bond with others and so on.
The nervous networker
Let me give an example from personal experience.
I was working with a client who was asking my advice on effectively networking with at business events – “Working the room” if you will.
I offered some tips which he thanked me for and noted, and then looked at me and said “You enjoy business networking and are naturally good at it, what tips would you offer if you’re not a natural and actually are quite nervous?”.
I shared with my client that actually, I was “naturally” terrible at networking events. Because I was uncomfortable at such events, I’d be nervous of attending (in fact, for many events I’d lose my nerve and decide not to attend at all) and if I did attend, more often than not I’d be the guy stood in the corner on his own pretending to be busy on his mobile ‘phone. If somebody did come and chat to me, I’d be in a sweat, panic and not know what to say.
All in all, I found business networking events to be quite stressful and not at all enjoyable.
Working at becoming a “natural”
But realising that business networking was an effective way to grow my IT business, I sought out techniques for becoming more comfortable in such situations. I read books on the topic and forced myself to attend more business networking events to practice these new techniques, and when I came across someone who I admired for being clearly very comfortable in those situations – I asked them for advice so I could learn the “art” of it.
Amusingly, nearly everyone I’ve ever met who I thought was a “natural” at networking and asked their advice has confided in me that actually, they find those events quite uncomfortable and have to force themselves to do it too!
So, while I saw others at being a “natural” at networking events, and while my client flattering offered that I was a “natural” at networking with others – the reality in both cases was that there was some amount of research, work and personal discomfort gone into giving that impression.
So the next time you see a “natural” great speaker, a “natural” effective salesman, or even come across those individuals who are “naturally” great connectors, influencers or the like – remember that they have probably worked hard on that skill and now give the impression they are a “natural” at these things.
Don’t dismiss your own potential and suggest that as you’re not as “naturally” gifted with such skills as these people you admire. Instead turn that assumption upside down and realise that whether you’re a “natural” or not, with the right focus and determination, you can become a “natural” at anything.