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Perception is reality… until you have to deliver the goods.
I was talking with a client about a mutual acquaintance. They are both speakers with the same marketing company in the same field. I am co-writing his book. I edited hers about a year ago. He and I had been talking about real estate speakers, people who had done a few deals and set themselves up as gurus. He brought her up.
“She can’t close the room. She only closes about 10%.”
In the “you only eat what you kill” world of selling from the stage, you need to consistently close 20% or more of the room.
“Why do you think that is?” I asked. He confirmed my suspicions.
“She does a good talk, but she knows deep down that she’s not being honest with people. She hasn’t done that many deals so she’s not totally convinced her own coaching will work.”
I was glad to hear that somewhere her conscience is still kicking, even if it is buried a little too deeply for my taste.
You Have to Have the Chops
I talk about credibility and imposter syndrome in my three video training series. I used to be amazed that incredibly knowledgeable people walk around with any self-doubt.
I was more amazed by people with no talent or knowledge who had no self-awareness and little to no self-doubt. Three decades ago I had a word processing company, back in the days when “home computers” were very new and most people didn’t have them. I had a client who had somehow managed to get a Ph.D. (I’m fairly certain his parents kept paying for school so he wouldn’t come home). He would pick up freelance writing jobs—for instance, writing a one-page press release for $250 to $300. He would bring in a scribbled mess and I would type it up for $2.50 a page.
Except it wasn’t just his handwriting that was horrible. The writing itself was clumsy and unclear. So I would edit his pieces, mostly because I couldn’t bear the thought that his clients would be so short-changed.
He, of course, thought his writing was genius, if not poetry.
His perception was not reality…
But, because he thought he was wonderful, he could market his services without reservation. He was a lousy writer but his lack of self-awareness made him a great marketer.
There was no cynicism in what he did. He truly thought he was good.
I see a lot of cynicism today.
“You just have to know a little more than your students to be a coach” or “You don’t need to know about the topic. Just hire someone to research and write your book.” And of course, “Become a bestselling author even if you don’t have a book.” (Yes, that last one sends me into convulsions every time.)
It’s a triumph of marketing over product and in some cases, it works. Is one brand of gourmet coffee that much better than another? Does it really matter which lithe, blonde pop star has actual talent or is the magic of vocal engineering enough to carry anyone through? (It is.)
Instant credibility or fame for commodities works with little or no repercussions. You bought an “As seen on TV” product for $19.95 (plus shipping and handling!) and it didn’t work as well as advertised. No big deal. Maybe you bother asking for a refund, maybe you don’t.
But how about finding out that your world-renowned, Harvard trained brain surgeon may have “fluffed” his resume a bit… right before you’re wheeled into the O.R.? Or that turnaround king business consultant that you sank your last bit of capital into has a 60% failure rate?
People are packaged all the time: pop stars, speakers, politicians. And packaging is important. To compete in this day and age you need professional marketing materials and a strong marketing plan. With the internet and enough money, you can have instant credibility. You can pay companies to build your following on social media accounts, to buy your books, to land you speaking gigs and TV interviews. You can take out pay per click ads on Facebook, Google, YouTube, Plentyoffish, for that matter. “You everywhere” is certainly achievable.
Fame is Fleeting
But if you don’t have the knowledge and experience to deliver on your promises, you will be a failure everywhere. The internet giveth and the internet taketh away. Your credibility needs to hold up under the scrutiny of your clients and your competition.
That is why you see gurus jump from thing to thing to thing. (It’s also a method of keeping a stream of bright, shiny objects to buy in front of you.) They can’t go deep on their subject so they switch to the next big thing, then the next, then the next. That’s why the relationship coach is telling you how good juicing is for your body. Don’t blink.
You can become semi-famous overnight. But if you can’t back up your story, if you can’t deliver on your promises, all that ground work you laid to get your name “out there” is going to open up and bury you.
True credibility takes years—of studying, of doing. It’s not instant. It is earned, not given. But in today’s marketing landscape, the qualified are competing head to head with unqualified people who have very good marketing. You can no longer modestly wait for the world to discover you or for your competition to be unmasked—there’s always someone new on their way up. The bar is constantly being raised.
The days of “under-promise and over-deliver” are gone.
You need to promise big and deliver even bigger.