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How’s your search ranking? And Facebook fan count? Is there a call to action on your website? Are you building an email list? Good stuff but you can have all the strategies in place, be perfectly positioned everywhere from Google to Twitter and still not win business.
Why? Because human beings are complex, emotional and irrational and we make decisions for complex, emotional and irrational reasons. Psychology and marketing have proven this over and over in study after study. So what good is all that marketing finesse if you’re still hitting a brick wall?
That’s what I’m here to help with today. Let’s skip the finer points of marketing and the do’s and don’ts of strategy and get to the complex and human part of connecting with – and winning – customers. It’s messy, it’s hard, but it’s all about payoff. Today’s tip may sound simple but it can be difficult to execute, especially in a world where so much around us is about appearances.
For today’s exercise I want you to throw away everything you know and everything you think you know and go back to the very essence of your human-beingness. Ready?
Tip #10: Be Genuine
I almost titled this “Be Authentic” but that phrase is so overused that it’s become cliché. We’re constantly entreated to be authentic, in our blogs, on our Facebook pages, wherever our brand is represented. But the sentiment is wrong.
The dictionary defines authentic as “not false or copied”. So we’re authentic by default, as if we could be anything besides what we are. A clone, maybe, running around pretending to be us?
On the other hand, genuine is defined as “free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy; sincere”. Now that’s a definition I can get behind. Now for the fun part: how to relate this to business so you can take the competition every time (ok, more of the time).
Say “I Don’t Know”
This is almost impossible for some people. Those are the ones who want to be right at every turn, who want to be the ultimate professional, the go-to-guy, the answer-(wo)man, the superstar. For a lot of us it’s simply about ego. Admit we don’t know something crucial about the very thing we’re supposed to know about? Never!
But even the most professional professional on the planet doesn’t know everything, so start by admitting it. The alternative is faking it and that could come back to haunt you when your client realizes you don’t really know what you’re talking about no matter how many big words you use.
Plus nobody likes a know-it-all. Given a choice to do business with the pompous or the humble, most people will choose the humble.
I’m not talking about shrugging your shoulders and offering a mea culpa. I’m talking about being clear on what you know and what you don’t know. And when you don’t know something, that’s the perfect opportunity to find out – and then prove that you’re truly a professional by learning and sharing your knowledge.
Give The Bad News
One of the frustrating things for me as a business person is competing with the yes-men. These are the people who will tell you that they can do anything, any time, for any budget. You want a top notch website? Sure! You want it cheap? No problem! You want your Flash site to be number one in Google, have 5,000 Facebook fans within a month, see 14 options for your logo? Super!
Some people will tell you anything to get your business but you’ll repent later when they change their tune mid-project and you start to see the cracks in their story. For those of you looking for a service professional, look out for people who make everything sound like a rosy picnic. For the rest of you competing with these guys, all I can tell you is don’t be them.
In my experience, most people appreciate honesty, even when it’s not good news. You want a cheap Flash site that’s beautiful and at the top of Google search results? Good luck with that one. People appreciate realistic expectations and if something is a bad idea, or simply not going to work, be up front and say so. Offer alternatives. Be the idea-man instead of the yes-man.
Sure, some people just want to hear what they want to hear and they’ll find someone who will tell it to them. But saying and doing are two different things and I’ve also seen some of those people come back repentant once reality sets in.
If you’re the reality check, you’ll not only be more likely to gain someone’s trust, but you’ll be more likely to earn that person’s trust later when their falsely picture perfect vision blurs.
I know, I split hairs over the definition of authentic vs. genuine and now I’m telling you to do something best saved for windows and plastic wrap. But from a business perspective this one just makes sense. I like this definition: “Capable of transmitting light so that objects or images can be seen as if there were no intervening material.” Not the traditional business definition but still, it feels right.
When you’re discussing your services with clients or potential clients, shine a light on and through everything you do. Come on, you don’t work for the Pentagon.
People who obscure their processes do so out of fear; fear that their competitors will steal their ideas, fear that their prospects will figure out it’s not so mysterious after all. But if you’re truly good at what you do and you have confidence that you’re providing value, then it shouldn’t scare you to share it.
Nothing drives me nuts more than asking prospects who have worked with an SEO company what that company has done, and hearing the answer, “I don’t know.” As if SEO is a secret handshake, a recipe for some special sauce that must be locked in a vault. I tell you what: if you’re Google, you’re allowed to have undisclosed formulas. Otherwise, get real. You don’t do anything top-secret.
Imagine you hired someone to paint your bedroom and he refused to show you how he rolled the paint on the wall. After all, you might decide it’s so easy that you could do it yourself! Well, I know exactly how to paint a wall but I’ll hire someone else to do it every time.
Because professionals do it better, faster, cleaner… and because I’m busy and I can’t afford to spend days planning, managing and executing a paint job. Even if your customers know how to do your job, chances are they won’t. That’s just the way the world works.
And if you do have a legitimately proprietary method or a uniquely original process? ‘Fess up that you’ve got a special sauce, and then get back to being transparent about everything else. Nobody likes to be baffled, befuddled or bamboozled. It’s in our nature to want to know and understand, so offer that empowerment to your customers.
This whole tip can be boiled down to two words: be real. Remember your Marketing 101? People do business with people – and they do business with people they like. I’ve closed more than one deal over a shared love of cannolis, or because I told that embarrassing story about the time with my mom… well, that’s another article.
I’ve lost deals because I’ve refused to make promises but won some of those back when the competition’s promises turned up empty. I’ve earned respect for not knowing as much as for knowing (but always seeking the answers and learning) and I’ve lost credibility when I’ve tried to be all things to all people. You’ll never be perfect.
So simply strive to be the most genuine version of imperfection that you can be.
Have you ever refused to do business with a company because the people didn’t seem “real”?
Read More In The “Make The Sale” Series
- Tip 1: Qualify Your Leads
- Tip 2: Dress The Way You Want To Be Perceived
- Tip 3: Set Expectations
- Tip 4: Know Your S#*@
- Tip 5: Believe In Yourself
- Tip 6: Have A Personality
- Tip 7: Have Good Collateral Materials
- Tip 8: Don’t Sell Your Services
- Tip 9: Talk (And Learn) About Your Prospect
- Tip 10: Be Genuine
- Tip 11: Have A Good Website
- Tip 12: Follow Up
- Tip 13: Define Your “Je Ne Sais Quoi”
- Tip 14: Give It Away