Are you genuine? In marketing, sales, the agency business and leadership, being genuine and authentic is a requirement. When you don’t have those qualities, your audience and colleagues can smell it a mile away.
Used car salesmen get a bad rap, but it’s primarily because they lack authenticity. The guy selling you an Audi today was probably selling Toyotas last year and might have been selling a Ford three years back.
The best salespeople are the ones who firmly believe in the product they’re selling. The most effective marketers are the ones who can succinctly speak to the products they support and convince the target that this is the right product for them. The best agency execs are the ones who can stand in front of a room and speak intelligently about their area of expertise, knowing they are confident because they believe what they’re saying and have done it before.
The most effective leaders, whether they are a CEO or simply the leader of a group, are the ones who inspire others through a combination of knowledge, experience and positivity. All three of those qualities stem from authenticity. It’s hard to follow someone into the breach when you don’t believe that they believe you can be successful together.
Too often I see people bouncing around from job to job, especially in sales and marketing. When someone bounces around too often, they demonstrate one of two things: poor decision-making or the inability to fight through discomfort.
I can understand poor decision-making from time to time. We’re only human and sometimes we’re blinded by the light of excitement and are unable to see the underlying challenges (especially when those challenges are people-oriented).
The best colleagues to work with are open, honest and willing to admit that they made the wrong decision at some point in their careers
What I find less attractive in a colleague is the inability to battle through discomfort and find new ways to solve problems. I find, from my own past experiences, that being able to do so builds character, creates invaluable experiences, and enables you to be fully genuine in the solution because you had a hand in shaping it.
The folks I speak to in this business who don’t exhibit these qualities and experiences tend to feel less authentic to me because they didn’t overcome adversity. They didn’t believe in their role enough to solve the challenge. It’s hard to hire these folks, because you know when the going gets tough, they’ll be the first ones to get going.
It’s even harder to have them selling to you. When I was on the agency side of the business, I would routinely have salespeople reach out to me for a meeting. I would build relationships with people, and in many cases become friends with them. Then they would switch jobs and want to come in again to pitch. The pitch was always something like, “You have to see this -- it’s the best solution since X, Y, and Z.” Then, nine to 12 months later, I would get a call that they were heading to a new company and they wanted to show me its products. The pitch would sound eerily similar: “You have to see this -- it’s the best solution since X, Y, and Z.” A year later, the cycle would begin again.
That, “wash, rinse, repeat” model of sales washes away any sense of authenticity in my eyes, and that salesperson would lose credibility. I hate to say it, and I typically would tell the salesperson directly to his face, but if he wants me to take a meeting, I want him to stay at his job for at least a year. It’s difficult to allocate time to people who are simply chasing the dragon of the fast buck without investing the time and energy to truly believe in the products they support.
I try to surround myself with people who are authentic. Those are the people I can continue to learn from. Those are the people I believe in, and the ones who breed success.
So I ask you again, just as I did at the beginning of this column: Are you genuine?