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Keep it real, man

Psychologists have a phrase – “there is no reality, only perception”. What they mean, in their rather annoying way, is that your sense of reality is that which you observe with your eyes and ears. What you believe to be true is what you see and hear, and this, of course, may not actually reflect the true reality.

You may believe that motorbike is 100 yards away, but when you pull out you realise it’s a bit closer. Or you may know, for certain, that Company X is incapable of a job, but in fact it turns out they can do it rather well. Or worse, you may have thought someone easily capable of something, which they then fail you on.

Your parents probably told you that appearances matter, and they certainly do. I know one client who assiduously checks the shoes of who is pitching to him – believing that those unable to polish them properly are unlikely to apply the sort of diligence to a job he requires in suppliers, and who therefore tend not to win his work.

But appearances can also deceive. This same client has hired people with nice shiny shoes, only to discover they couldn’t do the job properly. His fury at this point is something to behold. Companies who fail him will never work for him again, but those with slightly scuffed footwear usually get another go at a pitch.

The important thing running through this is that there needs to be a match between appearance and delivery. Appearance may win you a job, but delivery will win you a customer. Does your marketing match your operations?Are you boasting about being able to do things you actually can do? It’s tempting these days to say yes when asked if you can do something you’re not sure about, but it’s not a good long term strategy.

So don’t try to appear ‘green’, or ‘caring’ if you’re actually not. Don’t pretend to deliver a complicated 18 month programme on a £20m job if your biggest previous experience was a £100k house. You’ll end up disappointing, and that will lose you more customers than being honest will.

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