At Salesloft’s Rainmaker conference this year I delivered a workshop, a keynote, and I participated in a panel. In each of these presentations, my focus was on providing as much value as possible to the audience. The feedback was all positive, but something about the feedback this time stood out which has me concerned. The feedback mostly centered around my authenticity and “realness.”
I strive to provide value in what I present and hope that the content I share makes a difference. The feedback I expect is based on the quality of the content, not how authentic I am in delivering it. With so much focus on the latter it got me thinking – why is authenticity such a big deal these days?
I know we need to be much more careful today with what we say to ensure we don’t offend anyone. Is it possible this fear has driven away authenticity? It seems that no one gives or gets direct feedback anymore. We’re afraid to say what we really want to because of the potential reaction.
Couple this with the world we live in where people are always in view of others (most by their own choice) and seem to put on a front to make it seem that their business or their life is picture perfect. People are forgetting what it’s like to be real, because flaws are picked up instantly and that makes people not want to be vulnerable.
In Sales, we’re always looking for the perfect template, pitch, or presentation, when all the client is looking for is someone to understand their needs and provide a solution to a challenge they’re trying to address. In training, we try to create the perfect role play or scenario that drives the exact outcome we’re looking for when we all know it rarely works out that way.
I’ve always found that transparency, being open about your strengths and weaknesses and setting clear expectations is the key to being truly successful. You can lie and cheat your way to “success” but that type of success is rarely fulfilling. It also tends to come back to bite you later on. I’m a big believer based on multiple experiences that karma is a bitch and what goes around truly does come around.
There’s a much broader discussion I think we need to have about authenticity at another time, but to make this tactical here are some things you can do to keep things real in the sales process:
- Before your next meeting read the job description of the person you’re meeting with to see what they are held accountable for and/or google “(title) + (industry) priorities 2019” and read a few articles. Come up with genuine questions about their role to see how you can help them achieve their personal KPIs.
- Use the upfront contract with clients to let them know what your goal for the call is and see if they agree.
- Have a good “reason” for every question you ask
- Focus on qualifying clients out more than you try to qualify them in
- Give references of clients you screwed up with but stayed with you
- Talk about what you/your solution is great at and where there’s room for improvement
- Talk about what your competition is great at and where there’s room for improvement
- Look to make a measurable difference, not a marginal one
The good news is authenticity isn’t that hard for people who care and as sad as this sounds, it can be leveraged as a competitive differentiator in today’s sales environment. Be real and make it happen!