Not long ago on a group coaching call, a client named Annie asked me the question, “How do I become more professional?”
Without more context, that’s a difficult question to tackle so I simply asked her, “Who told you that you need to become more professional?”
“Well, no one,” she replied. “I just sometimes feel that I need to work on cursing a little less and I probably should dial back my snarky tendencies. It doesn’t seem professional.”
I smiled and immediately realized that we weren’t dealing with a professionalism problem; we were dealing with an authenticity problem.
Annie IS a professional. She recently left her traditional job to embark on the journey of being her own boss. As we talked, I told her that because she is now building a practice of her own, she gets to worry less about what might be traditionally thought of as “professional” and define it for herself.
In sales and marketing, we often discuss ways to enhance the K-L-T factor in our businesses. K-L-T stand for Know, Like and Trust and was made famous by Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals when he said, “All things being equal, people do business with, and refer business to people they know, like and trust.”
The three elements are not only related; they build upon one another. We must allow ourselves to be known before we can be liked or trusted.
And being known is what lies at the core of Annie’s question.
Showing up as what I like to refer to as “full-strength” you, in your marketing, sales and service delivery is the only way to be known. This is also my personal definition of what it means to be authentic.
Authenticity has become a buzzword of sorts, but when building a brand, there is nothing more important.
Here are a few things to consider as you strive to be more authentic in your sales, marketing, and service delivery:
1. The harder you chase authenticity, the more elusive it becomes.
Authenticity can’t be found by wandering around looking for it. It’s about getting clear on what you value, what you stand for, and what you believe in. Then, communicating in a way that aligns with those deeply held beliefs.
Ironically, the very idea of trying to become more authentic suggests that you, in fact, are not.
2. There’s a difference between comparison and inspiration.
We watch other people. It’s just a fact of life, especially for those of us building a business of our own. But we must be careful when watching others that we don’t allow that sneaky devil of comparison to replace what should be inspiration.
When admiring the success of a competitor, it’s normal to ask, “What about the way they do business is something I can replicate in my own?”, because the question focuses on the other person’s process. As opposed to asking, “How I can be like them?”, which suggests we think they are superior to us and if we could somehow manage to “be more like them” we’d get more business of our own.
Mimicking others is a tiring game that usually ends with you losing.
3. Just like you can’t fake your way into a real relationship personally, you can’t snag a long-lasting client relationship that way either.
It’s tempting to water down our personalities to make more people like us. But when we skip over the foundational part of the K-L-T factor, we forget that in the long-run, if we aren’t being ourselves when they decide they like us, eventually, the relationship will sour.
That’s why Annie’s original question about professionalism really isn’t about professionalism. If Annie wants to attract the kinds of clients she really wants to work with, she’ll want the ones that can handle a snarky side with a little light cursing.
Naturally, there’s a time and a place for both of those things but it’s important as business owners that we own who we really are.
People can only connect with us when we allow ourselves to be known.
We can only allow ourselves to be known when we embrace our full-strength personality.
There are enough clients to go around.
Be authentically, full-strength you.
And watch as the clients you’d be delighted to work with choose you over your competitors.