Dr. Natalia Wiechowski is the Middle East's leading edutainer. She is a keynote speaker and personal branding expert who empowers business people to stand out. She builds impressive, positive, personal brands and fast tracks their success online and in everyday life. We walk through how personal branding and negotiation overlap and why personal branding is so important to developing strong negotiation practices and getting great deals.
Guest: Dr. Natalia Wiechowski
Mark: Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for joining me, Mark, on the negotiations.ninja podcast. I've got a real treat for you today. We've got Dr. Natalia Wiechowski. Natalia, I hope I pronounced that last name correctly, but she's the Middle East's leading edutainer. She's Dubai-based. She's got 127,000 individuals following you on social media. Is that correct?
Dr. Natalia W.: Yeah, it's correct.
Mark: Wow, that's insane. We're going to be talking today about personal branding and personal branding's role in negotiation. I've been following Natalia for some time on LinkedIn and really love her stuff, so super grateful to have you. Thank you so much for joining us, Natalia.
Dr. Natalia W.: Thank you so much for the invitation, Mark.
Mark: Yeah, no, it's super, super wonderful to have you. Personal branding is something that fascinates me a great deal, and I think that it's really one of those things that gets forgotten, especially when it comes to sales and procurement and negotiations in general. People often don't think about the nonverbal communication that we give others when we're getting into negotiation situations, but before we dive into how personal branding may affect negotiations, I'm really, really interested in finding out more about you and how you came to personal branding as a business and the whole concept of viewing yourself as a brand. Maybe you could tell us about your journey and how you got to this point.
Dr. Natalia W.: Sure. I am an ex-people-pleaser and ex-everybody's darling who really woke up one day and realized, well, apparently everybody sees me as successful and everybody thinks I'm happy, but I'm not, and to be very honest, I even don't know what that means. After studying and getting great degrees and winning awards and all of that and climbing up the corporate ladder while also having worked for government, I realized I need to sit down and do my homework. I need to figure out who I am, what's important to me. Back then, my life was really full of pain, physical pain, emotional pain. I was just absolutely unhappy and miserable.
To cut the long story short, went to a sabbatical and dig deeper and figured out that I need to do something that doesn't exist out there. It's not that I find the perfect job description one day which will have my name on it. I realized that I need to create my own business and life and how to look at my skills, how to look at what I feel connected to. I tried a billion things until I literally failed myself up to success and learned that I'm a speaker and I am a strategist, and what I'm really good at is self-marketing or impression management. This is when I learned, okay, apparently, I need to share that with the world because the majority of people, they don't know what it is, and they even don't know where to start if they are aware of what the concept actually means.
Mark: I totally agree with you. I think that most people have no ... Myself included. I have no idea what personal branding is and why it's so important. So, recently I went on this journey to discover, okay, what is personal branding all about. Why is it that I'm seeing people like you online talking about why it's so important to have a strong personal brand in business and life in general, and so maybe you could walk us through what personal branding is.
Dr. Natalia W.: Sure. So, for me personally, personal branding is a process or a journey, and in that process you learn how to market yourself or portray yourself and your career as a brand. Now, why is that important? I personally believe that modern western societies nowadays are very consumption-driven, and people who make it in life, they followed a certain path, and I've studied a lot of biographies of international office and speakers and all of that, and what I realized is they thought a lot about themselves. They went through ups and downs, but they always learned and developed, and at a certain stage found their purpose and shared it with other people, and they at a certain stage also staged that in a way to look even better and to add more value and to get better business opportunities, so this is what, for me personally, personal branding means. Yeah.
Mark: Very, very cool. You know, I was thinking about the interplay between personal branding and why it's important and how it overlaps with negotiation. There was a study that UCLA did a long time ago, I think it was in the '70s, where a social scientist that they had determined that 93% of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues, so what they found is that only seven percent of the actual words that you're using count in terms of communication.
The other 93% is all nonverbal, meaning ... I think 38% was voice quality. 55% was clothing, body language, branding essentially, and so it's so interesting to see how today these experts on nonverbal communication like Joe Navarro have focused so strongly on, without saying it, building a personal brand in terms of the clothing that you wear, the things that you're writing online, how you're developing your social image across the internet, how you interact with people on an ongoing basis, and I think there's a huge play on negotiations and personal branding and how personal branding makes you, or a good personal brand, makes you a more effective negotiator. Have you ever thought of how much influence personal branding has on making deals and closing deals?
Dr. Natalia W.: Yeah, very good question. I personally believe that once you know more about yourself, so once you've reflected on your values and your USP and you know the way you walk and the way you talk and your work and all of that, so once you, let's say, improve your personal brand to a certain extent, your self-confidence level also gets higher or better, and the way how you enter a room, the way you're presenting yourself when you're sitting, when you're negotiating, the way you approach people just comes in so much more naturally and so much more self-confident that I believe the likeliness that you will reach a certain target that you have in mind again radically increases because you show through everything that you do and through the vibration of every pore that you have I like myself and I'm good at what I do, and I worked my ass off to get there, so here I am today, and I know what I stand for, how I can add value, so if you want a piece of that awesomeness, let's talk business.
Mark: Wonderful. I love it. I think self-confidence is a big deal when it comes to negotiating and making sure you're getting a good deal. A lot of people don't think it is, but how you believe in yourself extends to how you show yourself, and how you show yourself generally makes people think this person, this man, this woman, they're here to make a deal work. They're here to do business. They're here to make things happen, essentially. So, I'm totally onboard with what you're saying. What do you think some of the major challenges are that people have when it comes to developing their personal brand or personal branding in general?
Dr. Natalia W.: I think the majority don't know where to start, so it's all about profile sharpening, so it's all about self-awareness in the beginning. Just sit down and ask these tough questions. What am I great at? What am I the expert in? What kind of real-world problems do I solve? So, these are the first challenges that I see my clients having whenever it comes to personal branding, and then another big bubble or area is the whole social media scene or area. When people say, "I don't know what to publish. I don't know what to post. I'm not creative. I don't want to be too salesy. People hate salespeople," so a lot of wrong beliefs about content creation and around the value that they can create actually by solving problems and by speaking about their expertise. I think these are the two biggest challenges that I usually see.
Mark: Yeah. I totally agree with you as well. I think there's not enough self-reflection, both in the procurement in the sales world and in the business world in general. For business people to reflect on what it is they're really good at, there's a great book by a sales group. It's called The Challenger Sale, I believe, by Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson, and I talks about why it's important to develop a personal profile of expertise, and salespeople are more effective when they challenge procurement people or organizations on the decisions that they make, but you can only make those challenges if you're truly knowledgeable about what you're talking about.
So often we play in areas that we're not 100% knowledgeable in, but if people actually take the time to reflect on what they're great at, like what you're saying in terms of building that personal profile, what they're excellent at, and then build their personal brand around that, I think they can truly experience success and amazing deals, and I think that too often we're sitting back and letting life happen to us instead of taking action and letting life happen for us, if that kind of makes sense, and I think that people are too reactive to those types of situations. What do you think makes negotiating with a strong personal brand different from other negotiations, maybe some pros and cons that you think may help people?
Dr. Natalia W.: I think when you enter a meeting room or generally wherever you are just to negotiate, when you have a strong personal brand, you usually have achieved a few certain things in life. Building a brand is a long process, and so it takes time, and with the time you will learn who you are. You will become better in what you are, so once again, you will enter a room a little bit more self-confident, which could also be a little bit intimidating for other people, which is not a bad thing, if you want to use this word, and it also ... I think when you enter a room like that, you also come, let's say, from an area of independence. That means you enter the room and you say, "Hey. I'm really good in what I do. I'm here to help you. I would love to work with you, but if you do not want to work with me, hey, I don't need you. I'm a great personal brand. There are people waiting in a queue."
That means that you have more power and independence in the whole negotiation situation. That's what I personally believe, and another positive thing ... It always depends on what's positive, what's negative on which side, or which side of the table you're sitting on. When you're a personal brand, you are usually the person who was invited. That means that you also go in there and it's not that you say, "Oh, please, I need that project," or, "Please, I would love to work with you," but you are more in the lean back and in the let's see what happens situation, and you don't need to defend yourself so much.
You don't need to come from ... A victim is a big word, but you are more in a privileged position. Let me say it like that. Because, again, you have so much value and so much knowledge, I guess that the level on which you're negotiating, especially when it comes to pricing, is so much higher because, once again, you have all of this expertise about yourself, about processes. So, when you are a personal brand, a strong personal brand, there are so many plus points in every negotiation, but also a lot of negative points on the side of the person who actually wants to hire you as a speaker, as a consultant, as a trainer. This is at least what I've personally experienced.
Mark: Yeah. I think it's really important that when you're developing that personal brand that it's a brand that you can stand by that's authentic to who you are, and I think if you're developing a brand that's authentic, you're gonna get that emotional pull that you're talking about in terms of people have invited you. They're pulling you in versus you pushing your business out, and I think if you're truly focused on developing a brand, that's the kind of brand that you need to focus on building instead of being the shout and scream, please use me kind of friend, because I think if you focus on that push marketing and that push branding, then you're never really gonna get to the level of branding that's authentic to who you are, and you can correct me if I'm wrong.
I think when you're developing an authentic brand, people need to see that, and when they see who you authentically are, then they're drawn to that, and when they're drawn to that, that's when you get pulled in, and so that's what I really love about the whole concept of personal branding and in terms of making it authentic, because it's not about being fake and it's not about dressing up fancy or showing certain things that aren't necessarily you. It's about developing an authentic brand about who you are, and if people can accept who you are, then the authenticity that you're putting out there, then it's only gonna make you stronger in the marketplace.
Dr. Natalia W.: Definitely. I mean, personal branding, if you want to put it that way, it's about emphasizing or polishing those aspects that you're already great at, and maybe hiding a few flaws or areas where you're not so good at. I mean, we all do that in everyday life anyway, and how far you go is your personal decision, and I never make any decisions for my clients. I say, "This is what we have. This is what you could do. What is in line with your personal brand? What is in line with your values? What is in line with you, because you are you, and I am who I am. You might not be as expressive as I am or as crazy as I am, or you might have different moral borders, so again, totally up to you," and I think no personal brand will make it in the long-term if it's fake because it doesn't make sense.
People want to do business with you as a personal brand because they trust you and they like you, and if you portray a fake image online, and then they meet you and they realize that you're two different characters, nothing's going to happen, so you wasted your time, you wasted their time, and because they're so disappointed, they're going to tell everybody what kind of a fake person you are, so now you even have a massive reputation problem. So, fakeness, no.
Mark: Yeah. It just doesn't work. Yeah. I think when I reflect on my career and my colleagues' careers, they've come a long way in developing that authenticity, and along with that authenticity comes a lot of failure and a lot of life learning, and what I was hoping we could discuss is along the way ... You're obviously very successful online in developing personal branding, and a lot of people follow you, but along the way you must have had a few failures and a couple slipups here and there. Maybe you can talk about some of the business or negotiation failure that you've had, and what you learned from those interactions.
Dr. Natalia W.: Good one. So, let me think. I think a good example is a project that I wanted to get as a freelancer, just directly after my sabbatical. So, after not working for I think almost nine months or so, I read about this great project and I applied, and there was a video interview, and I had another round of interviews, and then in the end the company decided to go for two ladies for that position, and I didn't get that because in the beginning they said they just need one, and so I'm entering the meeting room and we talk and everything, and they say they like me, but actually, now as they've seen me, they want to offer me another position.
I was like, "Oh, that's interesting. So, what would you like me to do?" The first position was more about being a TV host and interviewing people and being a brand ambassador, and I thought, well, it could be fun. I always wanted to learn how to move in front of the camera, and the other job was, again, being a marketing manager, and that's what I did before I went on sabbatical, and I realized I don't want to do that anymore. I don't want to use marketing or my marketing knowledge against people. I somehow want to use it for people, but I don't know how yet, so back then I wasn't aware of the whole personal branding concept.
So, yeah, we were talking, and then I realized, oh gosh, we're in the middle of a negotiation, and I was thinking and trying to understand what they want me to do, and the first thing that we start negotiating about was money, and I don't know how that happened, but cut a long story short, we decided on an amount which I was very happy with. They weren't so happy, but I was super happy, and then after that we start negotiating about my responsibilities, all the things that I actually should do in that job, and as I have kind of won the part with money, negotiation is about win-win, they kind of needed to win the area of what my tasks and responsibilities are, and that was ridiculously stupid because I am not a money-driven person.
I'm driven by purpose. I want to create things. I want to do things. So, what I've learned is negotiate the responsibilities and your tasks first, and really make sure that you're passionate about what you're going to do, and the second thing or second step should always be money. The other way around doesn't make sense if you function the way how I function.
Mark: I think that's great advice, and I think a lot of people tend to default to money as the first thing that they negotiate in any business transaction, and it's a trap, essentially, because you don't necessarily know what the investment is gonna require if you don't know what the work is gonna entail. Right? So, if you don't have a good idea of what the scope is that you're negotiating, then it's very difficult to determine how much money needs to be invested in that scope, regardless of what it is, whether it's a job, or a service that you're performing, or a product that you're providing, or whatever it is. You really do need to know what's involved before you can start talking about money, and especially when it comes to yourself. Right? Your personal branding is maybe you don't agree with what they're saying and what you should be doing and all that kind of stuff, so I think it's incredibly important to think about negotiation wholistically in terms of the work that needs to be performed first, and then talk about price.
A friend of mine, Anthony Iannarino, he's a sales coach based out of the United States. He talks about the value that a salesperson provides and the investment that's required to make that value work. Any investment that's less than the value that's being proposed only means that you get to take or that you have to take stuff out of the value that's being provided, and so you have to talk about what is the appropriate level of investment for the scope of work that's being talked about before you can actually move on to negotiating the price that's involved, for example. So, you really, really do have to know what's being talked about before you can determine the price, so that's excellent, excellent advice. Thank you for sharing that. We talked a little bit about win-win, and it sounds like you believe in the whole concept of win-win. Maybe you could expand on that a little bit. Our listeners love to hear about different philosophies in terms of win-win, win-lose.
Dr. Natalia W.: Sure. So, I personally believe that a project will not really work or the end result will not be outstanding or will not be fun if both parties don't feel fair or equally treated because that's just human nature, and I'm that kind of character or type of human being, if I know that something's not going to be at least good, I'm not working on it. So, whenever I start a project or work with somebody, I sit down and I give my best to understand what is your problem, how can we get there, what is important to you, and I write everything down, and then I express myself, and after that I once again write everything down, and then I either send an email with the summary, or before that I actually ask people to repeat with their own words what I want, and I also make them ...
So, wait. I repeat what they want, and they repeat what I want to make sure that everybody's on the same level or everybody understands, and working like this is more fun, and it's fairer, and the end result is better, so this is why I always make sure that it's all about what do you want, what do I want, let's make this happen, and whenever there are any problems, I've also learned that sometimes people mix between the actual problem, like this is what we're going to work on, and the personal relationship. So, whenever there's any conflict, I make sure that this is what we're talking about, this is who I am, so let's not mix that together, so that's something that I also learned over the years.
Do not take things personally, especially not in a negotiation process, because some people might say things to intimidate you or to make you look stupid. Just, once again, elegantly go back to what is it that we're here, and I'm here to solve a problem, and I'm only here if we're both interested in a fair an equal solution. If you're an asshole, sorry to say, then I'm not willing to work with you.
Mark: Yeah. I agree, and so that's very intuitive, actually. There's a great book called Getting to Yes, written by Roger Fisher and William Ury, and they talk about separating the people from the problem and not making it personal, and really focusing on interest-based negotiation versus positional-based negotiation, and not letting your emotion drive the negotiation itself. Like you said, you're here to solve the problem, so focus on the problem and focus on developing a solution to the problem as opposed to trying to fix the people that are involved in that negotiation process, so that's great.
Dr. Natalia W.: Yeah, which you never win.
Mark: Okay. So, along the way ... I mean, we've talked about a couple of the failures that you may have had. You've had a very successful career. If you were gonna give any advice to your 30-year-old self on negotiation or business, what would it be?
Dr. Natalia W.: So funny that you ask this question, because I recently worked on the optimization of my webpage, and I was wondering what it is that people type into Google, and the most searched keyword term is "Think Natalia age". I was like, what? So, people want to know what my age is? So, with your question, you actually gave them a hint that I might be older than 30, might. Jokes aside. So, what kind of advice? It is not rocket science. I used to be so afraid of negotiation and of sales and of all of that, and I always thought that I'm not born for this and there are people who are experts, and I don't know, I'm just not talented in that area. To be very honest, it's like everything else in life. Read a book. Get a mentor. Train it as often as you can. Do it until you have to do it, and at a certain stage hire an expert to do that for you.
Mark: Yep. Great advice. I think so many people are afraid of sales. They're afraid of negotiation because they feel like they don't have the ability, and like you say, we all start off at a point where we don't have ability. Right? I mean, you started off at a point where your natural talents coincided with your ability, and you knew that you had to develop a certain ability in personal branding, and so you did that, and so you developed and you grew into that area, and the same thing goes for negotiation. If you want to get great in negotiation, it's not something that only a few select people are born to do. It can be taught, and it can be learned, and it's so important that people realize that they don't have to be the person who's not great at negotiation, and the same goes for personal branding. Right?
I mean, you can teach personal branding. You can teach someone how to develop a personal brand, and I think it's critical that people get their heads out of this mindset that they can't do it for whatever reason. It's critically important that people realize that you can learn it, you can read it, but as long as you read it and practice it, I think that's the key differentiator. You're not gonna become an expert if you just read the knowledge and then go, oh, that's nice. You actually have to apply it.
Dr. Natalia W.: No, definitely. I mean, write it down if that makes it easier for you. Have that piece of paper next to your laptop or something, and then repeat it five times in the morning, five times during lunchtime, and five times before you go to bed. My services are worth so-and-so much US dollar, or if you want to have a three-months consultation package, the investment is X US dollars, and say that over and over again. Stop smiling. Stop being funny while saying that. Just say it. Say it with self-confidence. Prepare yourself for potential questions.
So, if your monkey mind starts to be on fire and starts to panic, it's like, oh, but what if this, oh, what if that, oh, what if this, oh, oh, my god, and what if that, write all of these what-ifs down, and then find solution. Okay, if this happens, I'll do that. If this happens, I'll do that, and do that as long or until no what-ifs appear in your head, and then observe how chilled and how relaxed and how great you will be in the next negotiation.
Mark: Yep. Totally agree. Excellent, excellent advice. Okay. So, we're coming towards the end of the discussion today, and I gotta tell you, I have had such a wonderful time talking with you about this. I think not enough people pay attention to personal branding and the effect that a strong personal brand can have, and having you on the show today to speak about that and the value of personal branding has been such a treat, so thank you so much.
Dr. Natalia W.: You're most welcome. Thank you. I think I also learned a few very interesting things. Especially the book hints were great. Thanks for that.
Mark: Yeah. You're very welcome, and listen, Natalia. If people want to reach out to you and find out more about what you're doing, how do they do that?
Dr. Natalia W.: Sure. Why don't you go to my social media channels. I'm really, really active on LinkedIn. You will find me under Dr. Natalia Wiechowski, and if you're not so much of a LinkedIn person, then you'll also find me on Facebook or Instagram, @thinknatalia, and if you're more of a reading person, visit my webpage, thinknatalia.com, and you'll get access to over 111 free articles about personal branding, public speaking, and life hacks.
Mark: Awesome, and listeners, just so that you know, as always, I'll be linking out to all of these sites on the website for you, so no worries if you missed those. I'll make sure you have the URLs so you can access that, but again, Natalia, thank you so much for joining me today. I really, really enjoyed it, and hopefully we can do it again sometime soon.
Dr. Natalia W.: Sounds very good. Thanks once again, Mark. Thanks.
Mark: Thanks so much. Buh-bye.
Dr. Natalia W.: Bye.
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