-3503 Divya Parekh:
Do you ever feel “salesy” – in the worst way – when you are trying to market your business? Often women struggle to “step into the light” and truly claim their worth and value. Why? What stops us? And what’s the best way to shine your light and your unique solution?
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who is an authority “positioning” advisor, working with thousands of entrepreneurs, authors and thought leaders worldwide to help them authentically position themselves to succeed building a purpose-based business.
Divya Parekh is founder and CEO of Dreams Accelerator and a 9-time bestselling author. Today we talk about how to market your business without seeming self serving – why storytelling is everything in personal branding + marketing.
Divya Parekh is an expert in brand positioning, a business growth advisor, and #1 bestselling author. Having success in four primary career paths, Divya combines real-world business acumen with a proven record of success. Divya brings over 20 years of rich and extensive experience in academia, the biopharmaceutical industry, the book industry, and as a global business leader. In her many roles, she has empowered people with breakthrough insights, talent development strategies, and measurable business outcomes. So much to share today + first…
Excited to share wisdom from the inspiring Divya Parekh with you today – she’s worked with thousands of entrepreneurs, coaches, consultants, and leaders from various industries, who are ready to play full out, experience the joy of impacting others, and expand their reach, business, and revenue – via coaching, authorship, consulting, authority positioning, media exposure, course building, speaking, and strategic marketing.
Divya’s books and strategies have been endorsed by the likes of Brian Tracy, Marshall Goldsmith, Kevin Harrington (Original Shark from Shark Tank), Joe Theismann (Super Bowl World Champion and Entrepreneur), Rhonda Vetere (Global CIO/CTO and 2019 top 50 most powerful Tech Women), Sherry Winn (Two-time Olympian) and many more….
Today we’re going to talk about what hold’s women back I businesses …including why we often shy away from personal branding and shining our ow light. We talk the power of personal brad, storytelling and how to sell without being salesy.
Let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Divya Parekh.
Melinda Wittstock: Divya, welcome to Wings.
Divya Parekh: Oh, it’s a pleasure to be here, Melinda.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m excited to talk to you. The first question I have, top of my mind, is what is it that stops women from shining their light?
Divya Parekh: That’s such a deep and great question. So given the time we have here, first of all, I would like to thank you for having me and allowing to share my experience and insights with your audience. So what I have found in my years of working with thousands of people across six continents is that what’s personal is universal and we may say, “Yes, we are diverse. We come from different countries, that different cultures.” Yes, it impacts us. And yet, if we look at history, let’s go back, as the human race originated.
Going from stone age to whatever, neolithic age … gosh, I don’t know the exact … how it progressed. But as the humans evolved, most of the times, men were hunters and women were field gathers, taking care of children. So if you take a look at this from a biological perspective, nature has created the two options. So one option is that men have more testosterone. I come from a science background, so I like to break it down from a science perspective, so it is without any bias and look at the facts. And women are nurturers because women are designed physically to bear children and to raise, and that’s how our brains are designed.
So what has happened is, as the society has evolved, it was compartmentalize as far as the functions of men and women were concerned. Men were the breadwinners and women were supposed to stay at home and take care of. And if you look back into the history, has not been that long, I mean, especially if you look at even commercials from 1960s or 70s. You find that the guy comes in at home with a briefcase and a woman is all prettied up and standing there waiting for him, “Honey, how was your day?” So from that time, and as the men have evolved … I mean, it’s not just that time, women have kind of stepping into their power and as the human consciousness is evolving, I would say we are at one of the peak times that our planet has seen. And it’s going towards more and more evolution where women are hobnobbing with men in all areas.
What’s happened is that since women were children, it’s like, okay, even how you’re wearing your clothes, it’s like, okay, sit like this, this is inappropriate. You got to do this, you got to do this. There have been restrictions throughout. Whereas with boys, if you look at general society, “Oh, boys will be boys.” So think about that. All that said, even though we say that yes, women are equal. But as generations go through it, that has to be that turnkey, that has to be that shift that needs to happen in a woman’s mind. And yes, we are impacted by the society even to this day, we see the discrepancy between the earning power of a man and a woman. You also see in the promotions. Let’s face it, that’s how the world works right now. But that said, it does not mean that you’re lacking in power and that’s what women have to own.
And women have to know that it’s not men versus women, versus it is about owning your femininity, owning your own leadership style and stepping into that power. Because we cannot do anything alone, even if you look at a family unit, mom, dad, children. You are somebody’s sister, you’re somebody’s daughter, you’re somebody’s mom, you’re somebody’s wife, you’re somebody’s friend. Similarly the guys are the same thing. It’s a give and take, it’s a relationship.
So if you look at it from that perspective, yes, nature has made us the way we are. And it’s a-okay, we have been doled out enough power just like men have. It’s just recognizing that the power is different, and how to step into it and come from that place and lead from that place of who you are. It’s about being true to yourself. And what happens is that women tend to shy away from shining from the light is because they’re just … I haven’t gotten kind of … it’s a long winded answer, but I wanted to kind of give the background into it. That iffy step away that what is expected of me, if you don’t step up to the plate to meet the perception of the society or meet the perception of others. Versus this is who I am, I’m uncomfortable in my shoes, and I’m going to step on the plate into my shoes. And you will find that if you are coming from a place of integrity and authenticity and being true to yourself, it’s not bragging about yourself, it’s just being who you are.
Melinda Wittstock: Divya, this is so true, I hear you say a lot of things here that I want to follow up on. Really the first one is that fear that holds us back … wait, no, I’m just going to pick up there again, sorry. There was so many different directions to go in from your answer because it was pretty substantive, so hold on a minute.
So Divya, there’s a lot of things that you say here and one of them at the very beginning was about how the personal is really universal. And the more personal we can be in our communications, the more effective we can be. But so often I see with entrepreneurs that everybody wants to please everybody and women are kind of taught to try and please everybody. And in a marketing standpoint, that’s very difficult. When you please everybody, you become a wandering generality and you’re kind of pleasing nobody. So you have to be thoughtful and actually just double down on what’s unique to you. And I’m curious what you think about what stops people right there from doing that. Is it the people pleasing way that we’ve all been brought up? Or is it the fear that will alien? What is it that stops people from zeroing in on that very specific laser targeted message that is going to make all the difference for you and your brand and your business?
Divya Parekh: There are so many answers to it, I’m just going to zero in on one answer. And since you mentioned fear, so what is fear? Let’s take a look into it. I come from that science background, biochemistry neuroscience perspective. Is fear is nothing but these are our thoughts and sometimes it can be triggers, it can be external triggers, internal triggers, the thoughts we’re having, beliefs that we have. And we’re projecting the outcome in the future. That’s how I see fear and you’ll be hearing me say a lot of definitions that are my own. And now you’re projecting the outcome in the future and as you mentioned that, okay, I got to please everyone. And if I’ve got a to please everyone, now what’s happening is that you’re diluting your message. And in the quest of pleasing everyone, you please no one.
And as beautifully said, is wandering-
Melinda Wittstock: Generality, yes.
Divya Parekh: Wandering … all right, I’m going to give up on that. So it’s like a wandering something that makes you so general, makes you so common that it does not make you unique. And the way I see it is … so for example, just see over here. So I cannot pronounce that word, it’s all right, it’s not the end of the world. And sometimes, initially when I had started out in my career, I’d be like, “Oh my goodness, how are people going to think about me? I got to be perfect.” And the key is that, when we’re projecting that fear, it’s about looking weak, it’s about looking imperfect.
So one of the things I say, is that when you embrace your imperfections because yes, we all are human beings and being a human is hard and being a human is having those imperfections, having those flaws. And I openly speak about my imperfections, and I’ll even say, “Hey, let’s have a drum roll here, folks. I am a flawed human being. And if you’re perfect, Hey, kudos to you. But I am imperfect.”
So if you can take that fear away in the sense that if we embrace ourselves, if we embrace who we are, then that fear goes away. And I have lived through it. I’m your next door neighbor. And sometimes even to this day, I do have that thought cross my mind that, “Oh, how am I appearing? How are people are going to perceive?” It’s how we respond to it, that’s what makes the difference. Emotions and fears, they’re not going to go away, Melinda. How we respond to it, that’s within our control and that’s within our power. And which we can flip and change the course of our actions, of our thoughts, of our beliefs and impact on others.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. So there’s a lot here to unpack. So when you work with female founders and as an authority on positioning, take me through that process.
Divya Parekh: Absolutely. So then we talk about authority positioning and the reason a lot of people say, “Ah, Divya, why do you use the word authority?” I say again, “Why do we have to dance around the words? Why are we becoming so sensitive that we cannot talk openly? Where we cannot have tough conversations?” So when I talk about authority positioning is authority means tapping into your power. And that just does not happen by branding, it’s not about your color palette, it’s not about the font you use, it’s not about your logo. It’s not about the pictures that you have done, like awesome makeup and you have a good photographer and they take your picture. It’s about stepping into your shoes every single day, it’s about how you show up for yourself.
So what we do is when we meet, I meet people where they’re at. And I have to share that I’ve been very fortunate in having been a mindfulness practitioner for most of my life. When I was a kid, during one of our family reunions, we were all just running around and the elders wanted to rest in the afternoon. And of course, when you have a bunch of kids around, you can’t rest. So one of our cousins put us aside and said, “Okay, all of you guys, sit down, line up. I’m going to teach you just how to focus on breathing.” And somehow it just became embedded in my life and I can say that by the grace of power of the universe, whatever you want to call it, by the grace of nature. I’m very fortunate to be able to practice mindfulness [inaudible 00:12:23] in my life and that has allowed me to embed and infuse and absorb that non-judgment in my life.
Now, does that mean I’m totally nonjudgmental, I don’t have biases? No. I continuously practice and I have the advantage, you can call it, even a competitive edge because I’ve practiced that over so many years.
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Divya Parekh: What I do is I meet people where they’re at, we understand, we listen. And it’s not about the, “Hey, look at this. I got this blueprint.” And yes, I do have a blueprint, but it’s a personalized and customized blueprint. Step one, two, and three, and you got to follow that.
So I meet people where they’re at. We understand where they want to go, we understand where they’re at, and we identify that gap. And I do use few assessments, these are all scientific based assessments. And we also use some Lean Six Sigma, which I’m very fortunate to have learned from working with Fortune 50, Fortune 500 companies, running multimillion dollar projects. And then we see where is that gap and how can we fill it? And when we talk about filling in the gap, there’s always room for growth.
So the first thing … again, what you had mentioned is about, pleasing everybody. I’m not the right candidate for everyone and not everybody is the right candidate for me. Because to me, I love to make magic happen and magic only happens when there is partnership. And here it is, that you may not be there and yet you have this fire in your belly and you have this desire to make an impact. And then you have that strong, why. It will overcome any challenges and adversities you face.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, so have a mission, like know your North Star and where you’re going. I mean, that’s really vital. I’m curious though, so many women have an issue around, I call it, fear of success rather than fear of failure. Because when we succeed, when we really dare to play bigger, dare to really step fully into our dreams, step into the light. Really market ourselves in a full throated way, we fear that other women won’t like us, we maybe won’t attract a man. I don’t know, there’s all kinds of things. A lot of these fears are often subconscious, they’re not necessarily top of mind, but they are driving us. And I see a lot of women creating small businesses. I know in my experience, to create a big business or a small business creates the same amount of effort. So how can we practically retire some of those things that are standing in the way? That fear of success that so many women have.
Divya Parekh: That is so true. Because here’s the thing, I think each and every one of us goes through. Because the higher you rise, the higher the expectations. And then you, at a higher level … and I’m not saying higher in any means, there is no distinctions between people. And yet let’s say, now if you have been on 100 podcasts and if you’re on your 101 podcast, somebody may say, “Oh, wow, look at Divya, she can’t even say the word, generality.” Okay folks, here I’m trying it. And they would critique me and they’ve put a comment down there and they may say something that does not fit well with. So it’s very hard to take that criticism.
So the thing is that when I talked about the why, when you ask me, how do we go about it? So it’s not just about when I talk about it [inaudible 00:16:41] positioning, it has to come from the den. So let me just kind of share a story. Let’s say if you have a seed, it can be any seed. And when you take a look at that seed, let me ask you this question. Is there … let’s say it’s an acorn seed. Do you think there’s an acorn tree inside it?
Melinda Wittstock: Well, I mean, I know a little bit about acorns. I mean, everything in the acorn contains a blueprint to become a tree.
Divya Parekh: Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. So potential is there and now if you don’t put it in the ground, if you don’t allow … if you don’t give it water and create the right conditions, it’s not going to bloom into that wonderful acorn tree, that not only provides oxygen, that not only provide shade, it loses its potential.
So the first thing that I worked people is that … first of all, I only work with those people. And I am sharing that because it’s not that I don’t see potential in everybody, it’s about if they are willing to take their message, if they’re willing to take their conviction and move that step. If they’re willing to partner with me where I see that potential in them and they’re ready to step into their power.
So the thing is that the key is when you talk about what holds us back, is it’s about the success. What if I don’t become that tree? So the key is knowing that conviction that, “Yes, I may fail. And yet I have lived my life, I’ve at least tried it.” I would love to read out Theodore Roosevelt’s quote and I love it. “It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man or woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly.”
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. I agree with you, except a lot of women shy back from being in the arena to begin with. So how can we get women into the arena?
Divya Parekh: It’s finding that conviction, building that conviction and them seeing the potential. Sometimes all it takes is having somebody else believe in you.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Yeah. And so how do you take that step? Like, so tell me a little bit more about your process and how you work with women specifically on this.
Divya Parekh: Absolutely. So first of all, we have a discovery call and I tell them that, “Listen, it’s nothing to do with you, it’s nothing to do with me, if we don’t work together.” I have my interview questions and we just have organic conversation. And when I talk about interview questions, it’s not like, step one, two and three. We determine if they’re ready to move to that next phase. If they’re not, then I share with them another coach who would be really working for them.
So the first thing that I look is that burning desire that, “Yes, I want to make a difference. I want to impact other people. I know that I deserve the quality lifestyle, I know that I’m ready for success and yet I am fearful.” So being fearful is okay, the key is having that desire. And then they have the desire and when I know that, and I see that genius in each and every single person, then I work with them and they know that I’m there for them. Either usually, they come [inaudible 00:20:36] or it’s very hard to just kind of pin down the process. I come from a place of heart, so people know that I really care for their success. To me, if they’re successful, it makes my whole life, that’s why I work for what I do.
And somehow we know, they understand sometimes it may take us a couple of sessions, but we do bond, we connect. And it’s not me telling them what to do, we co-creator plan. And we create a plan that is really working for them, like phase one, maybe where we take baby steps. I don’t have them jump directly into a deep fire, or under the deep end, or have them walk over the fire. Sometimes when people have that, “Okay, ra, ra, ra.” Like get them all hyped up and then they fall hard because here they are all energized when they’re with me. So we use a lot of scientific methods and heartfelt methods. So we move it gradually and we are creating neural networks, which is the new brain training. And I don’t tell them that we’re training your brain or anything like that. I just give them some tips and technology, and if they’re interested, I’ll share with them the science behind it.
And then we slowly move and they are able to see what I’m able to see within them. And then we are on the same page and I’ll tell you then they fly. Like one of my clients and she recovered from a very deep accident and she just was not sure. And as we started out, there were so much hesitation. But as she started seeing herself through my eyes, she was able to see this glorious woman and this glorious, powerful being who was there to step and help others. And one of the key things that we do is that shift that focus from me to we, that how their message can impact others. And one thing I’ve found is that when people see that they’re going to be able to have that momentum and massive influence on somebody else, especially women, they just come through it.
And then of course, there’s all those … that’s internal piece and all of the external pieces, we do a lot of positioning that, “Okay, how your books should be or you should not write the book. Or how you should be creating your own podcast, or if it’s not your podcast, how you should be doing a bunch of online course, how do we grow your business very strategically.” And that’s, again, through the phase and goes back to what I mentioned earlier is prescriptive formula. It’s not one size fits all, because not everybody’s ready to move forward, not everybody needs to have the whole shebang. We create like phase one, phase two, phase three, such that they grow with their own business.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. And I find that a lot of women who have service businesses or coaching businesses attached to books and all that kind of stuff, tend to be much more tuned into the whole marketing rigmarole. Whereas a lot of tech entrepreneurs, women building really big scalable companies or any sort of company that requires really like huge innovation, operational, all of that. Tends to … I don’t know, discount or not put that personal branding in the forefront. Do you see a difference between the types of women entrepreneurs and the types of businesses in terms of the ability to really seize that personal and business branding acumen?
Divya Parekh: Absolutely. Because sometimes the brains are wired differently. We all are born with a genetic propensities and then there is some environmental propensities and there’s always room to learn. So what happens is that … especially with tech because I have worked with a lot of engineers and [inaudible 00:24:48]. They are so much into tech that they’re used to hiding … well, maybe hiding is not the right word. Maybe there’s so much used to be behind the computers that they’re not used to general interaction with other people. So that has been always cut down, if you kind of think about it, either people have been into developing apps or playing those games and they’re extremely smart in that area.
And some women can have both like social skills and the technology, so I do not want to generalize. But I can say that there is a good percentage of women who, because they have been so immersed in technology, that that portion of soft skills and social interaction kind of gets a little unpolished. And the bad, what we do is we just kind of take … so for example, I share a very quick story. One of the executive directors in tech company and I was coaching her, and she said that, “Oh, whenever I go and try to talk to somebody, I just freeze up. I got promotions because I was really good with technology, I build this app and I took the company from here to here.” And that also says about a gap, some of the companies have really good talent development, some companies may not have. So she had reached … it was a small company, probably like 100 people and she reached higher up pretty fast within like three, four years.
So then we started out small like, “Okay, today you’re just going to go network with two people. Two people that you don’t know, find out how they’re reporting underneath your team manager and go stop by the desk and talk with them personally. And how are things going and forget about how you’re going to seem, think about maybe the people who were uncomfortable in your presence.” And they’re not probably [inaudible 00:27:00] because … shed a little bit of light on that, the company said that, people underneath her said that she was unapproachable. I said, “Just go and open up and just talk with two people every single day. And talk to them, just to look at what’s on the desk, there may be a child’s photo or there may be a shell.” Oh, nice. How you doing? And just ask once more personal questions. And as we did that, everybody has the abilities, it’s just about developing them and building those abilities. And she was fine and like a rocket, within six months.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Like learning any new skill, you need to exercise the muscle to be able to get there. I mean, there’s a lot of research that shows that CEOs and founders that have a personal brand and actually interact on social media personally and authentically, out-perform those where the CEO is faceless. And the brand is just has no real human behind it.
So it makes sense to really invest in this and think about, does your personality, your story interface with the mission and the branding of your company on the personal brand side? Because there’s your company’s brand, but then there’s your own personal brand. Do you recommend that CEOs and founders have both?
Divya Parekh: Oh, absolutely. So one of my books that recently came out, Expert to Influencer: How to Position Yourself for a Meaningful Impact. One thing I’ll share is that having those relationships with people are so important, the reason I brought up that book was that it talks about how do you show up and how do you build your brand, whether you are in the corporate world, whether you’re a CEO or whether you’re an entrepreneur. Because studies have shown that a CEO who is both technically smart and who goes out, not only in the social media, but within the company itself. The company’s productivity and profits are much higher than other companies where the CEOs don’t do that.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. So it’s part of your kind of job description basically, to go do that. So you talk a lot about storytelling, that storytelling is the best way to really connect with people. Storytelling is universal, it doesn’t really matter the subject, as long as it’s told in a way that draws people in. So what would be some practical advice about turning your sale, your marketing, the way you talk about your company, the way you talk about yourself into a good story?
Divya Parekh: Absolutely. So probably as you noticed, I gave a couple of examples of stories of women that, how their story ran and it’s easier to relate with people. And similarly, I just kind of shared … and now this is going to probably become a story, one of my other podcasts that, “Hey, I was on a podcast and we’ve been talking about how to show up confidently or what is it that stops women? And I could not speak this word generalities and immediately that thought came to my mind.”
So storytelling, if you think about it, if you go back in history before the language was invented or discovered, or however it came into being. People passed on their knowledge from generation to generation through storytelling, and storytelling is something that’s something that has happened for real. And if you tell a story, it’s so easy to teach a point and teach a lesson because it sticks. And it’s about having a conversation, to me, there is no sales and marketing, it’s about having real conversations with real people. And with real intention of impacting others, because okay, somebody has a problem and how your solution is positioned to solve that problem, just share it with a story and let everything else bloom on its own organically.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, that’s wonderful. So Divya, we could talk about this for hours so you’ll probably have to come back on this show at some point. I want to make sure that people know how to find you and work with you.
Divya Parekh: Oh, absolutely. So people can find me on my website, which is www.entrepreneur.divyaparekh.com. And then they can find me on Facebook, my Facebook page is Beyond Confidence. They can find me on Instagram, my handle is a long one and I love it because I really feel everybody has a message. And it’s one of my flagship programs, how to make your message, your movement. And I’m on Twitter at Coach Divya.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.
Divya Parekh: Thank you for having me on your show. Appreciate it.