Brene Brown, Ph.D. (Author; Daring Greatly)
“You don’t close a sale, you open a relationship if you want to build a long-term, successful enterprise.”
Patricia Fripp (Author; World Class Speaking)
“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect.”
William Clement Stone (Founder; Combined Insurance Company and Aon)
Authenticity is a combination of confidence and vulnerability.
Exposing yourself is not easy. Authenticity is knowing exactly who you are and not being afraid to share the good and bad of it. When we see authenticity in someone else, we describe her as “a straight shooter” or “being comfortable in her own skin.” Authenticity is uncomfortable. Being authentic can feel like walking through the middle of Time’s Square completely naked. That’s okay. Keep walking. Revealing yourself, as completely as possible, will lead to stronger connections, longer relationships, and bigger sales.
Authentic people create authentic connections. More than ever, people are responding to authenticity. At the same time, the average person is more and more sensitive to insincerity. If you want to build strong relationships in business and entrepreneurship, or in your personal life, you have to learn how to be fearlessly yourself. Understand that faking it is a big turn off. People are no longer willing to waste their valuable time and attention trying to figure you out. They want to see the real you and they want to see it up front. False images cannot be sustained in an economy that is increasingly built on connection and vulnerability.
People Buy Trust
Hiding your flaws, or the fullness of who you really are and who you really work for, will result in damaged relationships and lost sales. A recent report from Nielsen showed that 60% of global consumers with internet access choose to purchase goods from familiar brands rather than new items from up-and-coming companies. No one wants to get screwed. This means that the most important aspect of selling is building trust. And the fastest and strongest way to build trust is with authenticity. There’s no where to hide anyway. Another Nielsen study discovered that 67% of global respondents perform an internet search when considering purchases from unfamiliar sources. You’ve made mistakes. Your company has made mistakes. Stop hiding them. Start sharing them.
I met Michael Smith at a nonfiction writing seminar in London and I was immediately impressed with his open and relaxed personality. Michael and I talked with several publishers together and we quickly developed a kind of yin and yang rapport. Where I was high-strung and cheeky, Michael was poised and receptive. The combination was pure magic. We’ve been finding ways to work together ever since. The quality I enjoy most in Michael is his ability to be confident and vulnerable at the same time. His authentic nature makes other people more comfortable and more likely to express themselves.
Authenticity is a tool that Michael has perfected and put to use in his professional career with great success. Michael has spent his career working in sales and marketing roles across several multi-national companies. He holds a BSc from the University of Leeds, an MBA from Warwick Business School and is a certified Executive Coach through Henley Business School. Michael lives in North Yorkshire in the U.K. with his wife and two young sons. For this article, I asked Michael to share a few of his techniques for increasing authenticity in business and entrepreneurship.
If you want to be successful in business, go naked.
When you lay yourself bare and live with authenticity, then you open up a world of possibilities. It becomes easier to communicate and easier to build relationships as you demonstrate more of the “authentic you” and less of a caricature of someone you’re trying to be. To do so requires two elements, which Isaiah captures perfectly – confidence and vulnerability.
It requires the confidence to shift your focus away from you, onto the other person; and it requires you to be willing in return, to stand naked and vulnerable.
Developing relationships is a two way process, however you have to care more about the other person than you do about yourself. In addition, you have to be prepared to open up – to show the real you – to engender trust and belief.
Do you have that level of confidence? Are you ok in forgetting yourself and focusing on the other person first? And are you ok with being willing to stand naked and at their mercy?
One of the keys to going naked in business and entrepreneurship is what I call “genuine curiosity”.
Go Naked With Genuine Curiosity
Let me explain this in two parts – firstly, let’s look at the “curious” part.
Imagine it as being super interested! When you’re super interested in someone, that’s when you’re curious. You deliberately and consciously strive to understand more about the other person first and you put them central to your thinking.
A good way of developing your curiosity in people is to ask great questions and ask them well. This doesn’t mean having a list of pre-defined questions as some people would have you believe. If there’s one way to completely de-rail a conversation and show that you were trying to play out your own agenda, it’s to walk in with a list of questions and reel them off like an automaton. It means asking questions which are relevant, which raise awareness and which remove limiting beliefs.
Which brings us nicely to the “genuine” part….
Well, basically you can’t fake it, nor should you try. You either are or you aren’t. Don’t waste people’s time. Don’t waste your own time. You either want to be there or you don’t. Get curious or get out. Be genuine, be authentic.
To do so requires courage, because to do so means that you’re no longer operating inside your comfort zone. You’re no longer in control and you’re no longer focused on the one person you know most about – you. Instead you’re focused on the other person – what they say and how you respond.
How To Demonstrate Genuine Curiosity
1. When you meet someone, work to find out at least three distinct pieces of information about them before you tell them anything about yourself. That’s harder than you may think! When they talk to you, get interested, find out more; work hard to learn about them.
2. When you talk to people, have the confidence to give them time. Give them time to answer your questions and time to speak. Give yourself time to listen. Don’t be tempted to jump into the gaps in their speech or to finish their sentences. Allow a pause when they finish talking so that they can expend on what they’ve said if they want to.
3. When they ask you about you, be open, be honest, show the real you, the authentic you. If you’re open with others, you’ll put them at ease. You’ll remove barriers and allow them in turn to be more authentic with you
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this approach. The power is in the simplicity, but it requires effort and focus.
Authentic people build authentic relationships. And authentic relationships result in bigger sales. So if you’ve got the confidence to put the other person central to your thinking; if you’re brave enough to learn about the other person and so allow them to learn about you in return; then you have the opportunity to build great relationships in a way which adds value to others – value that will be reciprocated.
Be sure to check out Michael Smith’s new book Go Naked: Revealing the Secrets of Successful Selling