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  • Writer's pictureBen Paul

Don't fake it, you won't make it

A business man with a mask, faking it till he makes it. Don't fake it, you won't make it.

Ever been told to “fake it till you make it?” Please don’t! I understand the phrase and the advice is well-meant, but it is sadly mis-placed.  And each year it is getting ever more dated and dangerous to try and fake your way through it. Most clients, indeed, people, are looking to work with people who are genuine and authentic. That’s a long way away from faking it!

When you start to think a bit more deeply about it, a great deal of lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects and consultants either strive or claim to be trusted advisors. This idea of being the trusted advisor sits squarely at odds with trying to fake it. Trust in itself occurs between two people who are open and honest with each other. Therefore, if you are searching to build business relationships on any level of trust, then you will need to start the relationship off the right way. Don't fake it, you won't make it!

Beware Imposter Syndrome.

Many high-achieving professionals suffer from imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is defined as the “psychological experience of feeling like a fake or a phony despite any genuine success that you have achieved.” (Source: Imposter Syndrome: Why You May Feel Like a Fraud.) Trying to win work, or develop client relationships by ‘faking it,’ will only heighten these feelings if you have them. So I’d urge you to steer well away from faking it till you make it.

Which leads me on to why you shouldn’t fake it and what you should do instead.

The 3 reasons why you shouldn’t fake it.

1.      It is hard to ‘fake it’ in the long term.

If you’ve pretended to know something you don’t, or faked an interest in a hobby you know nothing about and don’t find interesting, that’s going to be a lot of effort if you have a business relationship that lasts a few years!

I once took over an account as a young sales rep, from a seasoned account manager. The client was massively into motorbikes, something I have zero passion for, which was the same as the previous account manager. However, the previous account manager had ‘pretended’ to like motorbikes and tried to share his client’s passion. I was advised to do the same. However, I did not pretend and simply said it wasn’t my passion but I was happy to chat about it, which we did. The interesting thing is our revenue grew from this account and later in our relationship, the client revealed they had found previous conversation with the last account manager hard as they were clearly faking an interest!

2.      Do we really like ‘know-it-alls?”

Some of the idea behind faking it till you make it, comes from the idea of being the smartest person in the room. Many consultants who in effect sell their expertise, may well feel they need to be the foremost expert in the room. However, no-one is expert in all areas of business or life. It is okay not to know something and it is actually a great idea to admit when you don’t. It allows you to ask more questions, and learn.

3.      It probably won’t sit right with you.

I don’t think that many people like being unauthentic or putting on a different version of themselves. Sometimes you may find yourself saying things or acting in a way that doesn’t sit well with you. That isn’t good for you or those around you.

3 things to do instead of faking it.

1.      Be yourself from the outset.

Relationships take time. The really good ones don’t always start with an instant click, they can be more of a slow-burn. Whether you click with someone immediately or not, people are in the main - fair. If you are genuine with people, they are more likely to refer or introduce you to other people. In time, bonds are formed and if you are both yourselves, they are the profitable relationships.

2.      Embrace your ‘knowledge’ gaps.

You may provide your services to a sector, as an example. The people you meet, work within that sector. So, while you may have a good understanding of the sector, they are far more likely to have an intimate and technical knowledge of the industry. There’s no need to compete, they need your specific expertise and appreciate you having it tailored to their needs. These conversations are an opportunity to ask questions, and learn more about your clients and their industry, so enjoy them accordingly.

3.      Be you and stand for what you stand for.

Stand by your ethics and keep your integrity. If you do this, you’ll be happier and more confident. You’ll also have better client relationships as people enjoy working with those people who have integrity.


Conclusion – Don’t fake it - you won’t make it.

Let’s face it, you work in professional services, you’re probably not an award-wining method actor! It pays to play to your strengths and also deliver what your clients are really looking for, which is a genuine and authentic person who can help them out with some of the complex issues they are grappling with.


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