There is an old saying, "fake it til' you make it." I fully believe in the spirit of this idea. In other words, decide what you want/need to be and start behaving as if that's what you already are and soon you will be. Decide you are "the feared competitor" in your market, start behaving the way a feared agency would behave, and pretty soon you will be the feared competitor.
The problem with this approach is when the declaration is made and communicated, but the behaviors never follow.
Part of our interview process for new members is to perform an Assessment of their agency operations. We understand that before we can create a plan for them to become the feared competitor in their market, we have to have a clear picture of who they are today. And, when I say "we", it is all too often the prospective member finding clarity as much as it is us.
That may sound odd, but quite often, until someone really questions and evaluates thoroughly how they operate and behave, they fool themselves into believing they are something they're not. In other words, they are stopping at the faking part.
During the Assessment, we dig deep to get an honest picture of what they are doing and how they are behaving in eight critical areas: Sales, Marketing, Team Development, Solutions, Operations, Behavior & Culture, and Vision & Communication.
When we delve into each of the areas (especially sales), we often find they look, act and behave quite differently than they first describe. The mirror doesn't always reflect a pretty picture.
When talking about their sales process, we will often hear an agency say, "We are different; we really take a consultative approach." However, when we push, we uncover that while they may claim a consultative approach, and even promote themselves that way, they are really out there competing with a spreadsheet just like everyone else.
This is a dangerous play.
- The employees see the disparity between what the agency says it does and what is actually happening. This jeopardizes leadership's credibility in everything they say and also dooms every new initiative to failure. The employees know "this too shall pass."
- When leadership allows a claim to be made inconsistent with what is being executed, there is a blow to the team's confidence. They rationalize that leadership must not believe in their ability to meet the greater expectation.
- Or maybe, because it is repeated enough, the team starts to believe they truly are different. Unfortunately, this creates a false sense of confidence and it keeps them from taking the meaningful steps to turn perception into reality.
- Mis-managed expectations confuse and anger your prospects. When they invest the time to learn how your "different and consultative" approach might benefit them only to see a process just like the rest of the market, they are going to feel cheated.
- The inconsistency in what an agency says it does and what it really does will prevent it from tapping into its greatest potential resource: client referrals. A producer who knows the agency doesn't deliver what it promises will never have the confidence to ask an existing client for referrals and introductions.
"Fake it 'til you make it" is fine as long as it is a Vision of what you want and need to become that is then backed up by a plan to put the pieces in place to make it a reality. It has to be a genuine aspiration, not a deceitful claim – deceitful to either your clients or yourself. Make a claim and back it up:
- Decide you are the feared competitor in your market.
- Tell the market exactly why your competition should fear you.
- Describe in detail what it will look like for you to be the feared competitor.
- Be honest in determining where you fall short.
- Determine how to address those shortcomings and turn them into strengths.
- Communicate with your team every step of the way in a completely honest manner, even if it's painful, and be open to and ask for their input.
- Find motivation in your destination and confidence from your progress, and soon, you will be that feared competitor.
We applaud agencies that make bold and aggressive claims. But we celebrate those agencies who accurately reflect the necessary actions and behaviors to "make it".
Photo by © Arne9001