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Another in the series “How to be Taken Seriously.” This time, we’ll focus on not being full of shit.
I’ve got an exercise for you. For the next seven days, make a concerted effort to count how many people with whom you come in contact who end your conversation with “I’ll call you,” or “Let’s get coffee!” or “We should connect for a drink!”
In two weeks, go back and visit the list you made, and see how many of them followed up on their suggestion.
The answer will more than likely be “none.”
We live in a world where 99% of the people you meet are full of shit. It just is. It’s not up for debate, it’s not a scientific fact, it just is. I think this is the case for several reasons, but the most logical one is as follows: We all want to be thought of as “The nice guy.” Ironically, by doing this, we usually come across as full of shit, as opposed to the nice guy. If we play the nice guy role in the beginning “Call me! Happy to help!” Or “Let’s get coffee!” and then never follow up, or cancel plans, or never answer the resulting email, not only are we blowing our “nice guy” persona, but then we’re proven as even worse than a “not nice guy,” we’re proven to be full of shit. At least if you’re not nice and honest, you’re true. But being nice on the surface and never returning the call moves you from “nice” to “not nice” to “full of shit.” And that’s the worst place to be.
Others are full of shit because they only look out for themselves, feel the need to attempt to win by taking everyone else down, or simply put, just don’t care. Whatever the reason, just look around – there’s no doubt we’re living in a world full of people who are just full of shit. I’m on an Amtrak as I write this, and the guy next to me just got off his phone with a “OK, you too – Totally have to get together, no doubt, I’ll call you!” He hangs up, and under his breath, as he’s shaking his head, he mutters, “douche.”
So if that’s the case, there’s one really awesome thing you can take out of it. If everyone is full of shit, it’s never been easier to be at the top of your game and own the playing field. Think about it – It’s the same logic as the kinda-thin girl who hangs out with fat girls – By comparison, she looks hot. If everyone else spends their time disappointing everyone else, all you have to do is rise 1% above the fray, and you win it all.
So here’s how:
1) Exceed relatively low expectations. Again – We don’t expect much out of people anymore. Used to be we’d expect stellar service on all counts – Whether it was the windshield being washed when we pulled up to the gas station, or our meal being brought to our table – that’s pretty much gone nowadays.
Sure, it’s awesome to set the bar totally high and exceed it. And I’m not saying don’t do that. But focus on building your reputation piece by piece. If you don’t want to have coffee with someone, don’t suggest it as you’re saying goodbye after your first meeting. If you DO want to have coffee with someone, why not suggest a Skype call, and when you email to follow up, upgrade it to coffee. Start off low and grow quickly. It’s the easiest thing in the world to do.
2) Do “unexpected followup” daily. I have a big, big stack of business cards. Probably over 3,500, 4,000 cards. These are people I’ve met once, usually at a conference or trade show. They’re not “contacts,” per se, but they’re also not complete strangers. I keep these cards in a giant fish bowl on my desk, where people who don’t constantly worry about their weight would keep candy. Each day, I pull ten cards out, and email the people on them, just to say hi. No selling, not even that much talking about me – Just asking about them. How are they, what are they working on, etc. This keeps me “top of mind,” and does two other things: Brings some of those people from “quasi-contacts” to “clients,” and as beneficial, makes me first in their mind when someone they know asks if they know anyone who does what I do. Added bonus? I get to say hi. Nice touch.
3) Do the little things no one else does. You have any idea how many times I show up at early morning meetings with donuts? I call it “Insta-Hero.” It’s incredibly easy to be the Insta-Hero. Show up to an early morning meeting with Donuts. Make sure there’s a full bowl of candy on your desk when people come by. ALWAYS carry a pen, a stick of gum, and a lighter. (And not just for people who smoke – Lighters can act as a scissor and burn down a loose thread, among millions of other uses.) Be the one who always does the little things, and you’ll be the one people turn to when they have a budget to spend.
4) Find out what people are doing. If you had any idea on how many people I have Google Alerts, you’d call me the King of Stalking. But in fact, those alerts are one of the most helpful tools in my arsenal. Someone gets quoted? Drop a congratulatory note. Someone gets promoted? Send cookies. Someone takes a new job? Send a six pack. It’s not hard, doesn’t cost a lot, and keeps you well above the fold of mediocrity. Why? Because no one else does it. Again – When most people are full of shit, it doesn’t take that much to not be! So don’t be! Everyone wins! (Especially you!)
5) For God’s sake, if you do nothing else, just be nice! A smile goes a hell of a long way towards proving you’re not full of shit. Just by being a touch nicer – Offering to help someone put their bag in the overhead compartment, letting the obviously time-crunched person go ahead of you at Starbucks… You never know where these small, innocent acts can lead – But yo do know this – If they lead anywhere, they start off with the other person believing you’re in fact, NOT full of shit – And from there, it’s up to you to keep proving that.
Have fun. And if I missed anything, tell me in the comments.