In my book “Authentic Selling: How to Use the Principles of Sales in Everyday Life,” I make the argument that presenting an honest version of yourself – even if that version of yourself is not chock full of great traits – is crucial for building trust. Succinctly, if people feel that you are honest about the way that you present yourself, they will learn to believe that you are being honest in everything that you say. If you are an honest person who wants to be taken seriously, there is no better thing to do than to be yourself.
I talk in the end of the book about the phenomenon of social selling. Social selling is the premise of using social media sites like LinkedIn to build a brand for yourself in such a way that your potential clients and prospects start to view you as a wise consultant. Most good social sellers do not overtly sell their products or services; rather, they will provide relevant (and mostly neutral) content about their industry so that they might be perceived as thought leaders.
In my book, I complain about the way that many people engage in social selling today. Simply put, much of it is contrived and overly dramatic. The number of motivational posts I have seen on LinkedIn that could otherwise be read as some form of haiku is much more than I care to admit. While these are merely my observations, my impression is that a lot of people are truly exerting themselves and finding things to say that they think will make them look good rather than actually just speaking from the heart.
For the last few years, I have tried to engage in a different manner. That involves really just taking top-of-mind anecdotes that are meaningful to me and sharing them with the hope that paying my experience forward might benefit someone else. Sometimes it has even involved sharing old short stories I wrote back in college. The point being, not everything is some long-winded lecture. I just try to be myself.
Back in March, I left Next Caller after 7.5 years when they were acquired by Pindrop Security because I was ready for a new adventure. I took a month off between jobs and decided to do some traveling, including a trip to Los Angeles to visit some of my friends. I flew on JetBlue and decided to splurge a little bit for an upgrade to Mint, which is JetBlue’s (relatively) new version of first class. In full disclosure, I have been an Executive Platinum flyer of American Airlines for about a decade now, but always felt deep down that JetBlue was the best airline. And, now that I live in Boston (where there is a large JetBlue presence), I am seriously considering making a swap of allegiances.
In any event, the Mint experience on JetBlue was absolutely phenomenal. The seats were incredibly comfortable, the food was absolutely top-notch, and most importantly, the level of service was unparalleled. As someone who flies a lot, I have learned to appreciate the rigamarole that flight attendants have to put up with – especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the flight attendants had taken some time to get to know me at the beginning of the flight and they realized it was my first Mint experience. They wrote me a hand-written note at the end of the flight that touched upon some of the things from our conversations and wishing me a good stay in Los Angeles. It was not just the fact that they wrote a hand-written letter that I found to be exceptional (they did it for everyone), it was the fact that they actually had listened to our conversation and personalized each one. Those who have taken my online course on effective cold outreach know how much I believe in leveraging shared values to appeal to the human heart.
In any event, I decided to share my experience with JetBlue on social media. I posted a copy of the hand-written note and wrote a brief blurb about my experience and the effect it had on me. Since I have worked in the customer experience industry for about a decade, the post was relevant to a lot of people I know. But frankly, even if I worked in another industry like construction or banking, I still would have shared it. Why? Because the lessons learned from that experience are applicable to anyone. When you go out of your way to be kind to others, the impact it can have can far exceed your expectations.
That innocuous post I made about a good flight experience ended up being the most viral content I have ever posted online. From out of the woodwork, I had hundreds of people – most of whom I did not even know! – commenting on the post or liking it, and tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of views. I got a flurry of connection requests, and one in particular that really caught my attention.
Former JetBlue Chairman Joel Peterson reached out to me about my message. For one thing, he was very proud to hear what I had to say about JetBlue. He also thought I had a solid background based on my profile, enough so to ask if I might be interested in helping him with an upcoming book he is writing about radical intentionality. The plan was for me to interview a half dozen or so CEOs that he knew and to help him transcribe those interviews for his upcoming book. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity.
In the interest of respecting the privacy of the creative process, I will not go into elaborate detail about who I spoke to or what they had to say, but suffice it to say, these entrepreneurs would otherwise never have been accessible to me, and I learned a great deal about strategy and entrepreneurship by getting an opportunity to talk to them. One of my main goals in life is to create the largest civil impact that I possibly can, and I have identified two ways in which I would like to do that someday: screenwriting, and starting my own company. For the latter of those two goals, getting to meet these entrepreneurs was such an amazing opportunity and a blessing.
I say all of this to encourage others to be their authentic selves and to try to not have a self-seeking agenda in the content that you put out there. When you speak from the heart with a genuine interest in creating awareness towards something that is good, good things will come back to you. It might not happen right away, but being yourself will ultimately pay the greatest dividends in your life.