In the spring of 1994, a spirit of democracy came over South Africa as its people elected a new President, a man whom they had imprisoned for decades.

Nelson Mandela’s inauguration began with a tribal poet, known among South Africans as a “praise singer,” who recounted to the crowd of politicians, dignitaries, citizens and world onlookers the story of Mandela, who had dedicated and sacrificed his life seeking solutions for the legacy of poverty and injustice left by apartheid.

Not only did the praise singer emotionally stir the people as to the magnitude of Mandela as their new leader, but also served to augment the people’s hopes, dreams and visions.

Who are your praise singers?
Each of us has colleagues, clients, referral sources, contacts, acquaintances and friends who sing our praises daily. Through the normal course of business interactions, they tell a story about who we are as professionals and the value we’re capable of providing—the essence of our personal brand. Those within earshot are influenced by such endorsements in determining whether or not to enlist our services.

The more individuals singing your praises, the better chance you have of securing the introduction, winning the pitch, engaging a new client, expanding a current relationship, getting the promotion or closing the deal.

Action Step: From your contacts database, identify/create a list of those individuals who regularly refer you opportunities—new business, an introduction, a chance to be quoted in the press, a speaking engagement, etc. These are your praise singers.

Who’s shaping your stories?
Others share stories about you based primarily on what they hear you say and see you do. If perceptions are positive, you have enlisted others to further your cause. If perceptions are neutral or negative, you have given reason for others to refer your competition.

In an informational, non-promotional manner, it is incumbent upon each of us to provide our praise singers with story examples that demonstrate the benefit of doing business and associating with us.

Action Step: Create a specific plan for staying in contact with and providing value individually to each of your praise singers. Scheduling lunch, extending invitations to events, sending hand-written holiday cards or notes, forwarding an article of interest or “checking in.” Such activities will not only keep you top of mind among those who have the ability to influence your success, but will give you an opportunity to control the messages you want them to use while promoting you to their contacts.

In today’s competitive environment ripe with professionals who provide similar services, it is essential that your story be well defined such that others can sing your praises. Left to chance, someone may form the wrong opinion of you, or no opinion at all, either of which results in a missed opportunity.  In the words of former CEO of General Electric Jack Welch, “Control your own destiny or someone else will.”

Jonathan FitzgarraldJonathan Fitzgarrald is Managing Partner of Equinox Strategy Partners.  For nearly two decades, he has coached and trained service professionals on how to drive revenue and increase market visibility. He can be reached at 424.377.3200 or Email.