Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fake It Til You Make It

How many times have you heard this expression?

"Fake it until you make it."

I heard it again tonight. It can be useful to people trying to get to an acceptable level of success. I've used it myself in my past. Heck, sometimes, with some new products or services, I feel like I'm faking it a little, now. But, actually, what I've realized is that when we think we're faking it, we're often not faking it at all.

That's right. I don't think it's fake to stick your hand up in the air and say "I can do that!" and then have to figure out how to do it. Because, frankly, many of the world's biggest companies do this when they are trying to secure a big account.

I remember when I told Tandem I could sign over $1,000,000 in revenue volume in equipment for computer service and support and start supporting it with just five days' advanced notice. That's not a lot of time to implement a major deal of that size. At the time, all of the rules in my company were stacked against me. The company had a hard and fast rule that we couldn't add equipment without serial numbers. We also were supposed to input our own orders (I'd have been there a month just doing that!) Yet, this was a lot of money. I needed the deal. So, I stood up and said to the client "We can do it." In other words, I was faking it until I made it. But, I knew I could do it, if I just got my management team to buy into the deal.

So, my biggest sales pitch was actually not to the customer, but to my own company. I profiled the account, profiled the equipment base, and approached my Director of service operations. He listened to me, then dialed the Senior Vice President of Operations at D1, Marty McHale. I liked Marty. I'd met him before and let him know what I was working on just three months earlier. So, it wasn't a new discussion. Like my Mom used to tell me "don't go to the grocery store when you're hungry" I'd bought my groceries in advance, so to speak. After Marty heard my profile, and listened to the Director's position, he suggested implementing with an asset management program to get the serial numbers. I suggested assigning an implementation manager to the account so that I could still be free to sell to other accounts. Marty assigned J.D. to the account, who masterfully smoothed over all of the initial customer issues on our first service calls.

So, that was a situation where speaking up and saying, "yes, we can do this," when I wasn't 100% sure of HOW we'd do it, made me a lot of money.

There are probably people who will read this and say "If I say I can do something, and I can't, aren't I setting myself up for failure?"

The answer is "Yes, if you don't have the experience or know how you will do what you raise your hand for, indeed you DO have an opportunity to fail." I know. I failed miserably doing this. I once agreed to speak at a group of managers, with a time slot right after lunch, and with the meeting place right by the beach (good for them, not good for me). To make matters more challenging, it was my first talk in over a year, and I was speaking on a new topic. The group I was speaking to was, in many ways, more senior to me, with more experience. And, last, I was totally sick with a bad flu when I accepted the speaking engagement, figuring I could get well in the week before I spoke.

Bad idea. You can't fool mother nature and this was before the discovery of Airborne. I was NOT well the day before the talk, but felt it was too late to cancel. The next day, I was still messing around with slides trying to get it just right. I practiced my talk on the drive to Santa Cruz. When I arrived half an hour early, I found out that they didn't have the proper overhead set-up for me. Even the extra time didn't help me correct the problem. So, I had to put my slides on a chair, which looked tacky. I was nervous, sick, and under pressure. The group had people in the back of the room being intentional trouble-makers. Well, it was a rough day. If I had to grade my talk, I think I'd have given it a 6 out of 10 that day. I was that bad. And, for me, that was a dismal failure. I'm used to getting 9's and 10's on my talks! I learned so much about speaking from that talk! I'll never forget one of the managers who looked in my eyes, held my hand, and said, "Scott, you have a gift. Make sure you use it." Her comment is still part of what drives me to speak to this day.

Now, when I go into a group, I speak about topics I've spoken about before. In addition, I take certain steps to control what is happening in the room. I often include facilitators in the back who I can refer to as I speak. This gives me a complete command of the room, because people in the back won't goof off if they know you have a plant back there watching them. More than that, I do active Q & A whenever possible, because, like Bill Clinton, I'm good at the townhall style of speaking off the stump. Slides are cool, but they can restrict what you're doing if you're not careful.

I always have my notes together before my talk now, and always practice it. Then I throw my notes away and try it again. It's amazing how much you learn when you can't cheat!

You probably get the point: you CAN take a chance. You MIGHT fail. But, even the failures will end up making you stronger. So, my theory is, GO FOR IT. Have you faked it and had it work out for you? Flopped? What would you recommend to your peers and people starting out with living their purpose?

I say "Fake it until you make it." And, you just might surprise yourself. If not, you'll learn so much to help you be even better in the future, the lesson will be worth the cost.

This article is written by Scott Andrews, Founder of AspireNow. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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