Stay Out of The Guru Zone!
A significant percentage of my ideas for posts come from two places. One is, not surprisingly, conversation with my clients. I very much enjoy sharing experiences they are going through in the hope that others might benefit. The other source of inspiration for content is the really smart people I am fortunate to hang out and network with once in a while.
A few days ago, I put up a post inspired by a conversation I had with Jim Keenan, and this morning I was talking with Peter Svenneby, who is the brains behind Syntuity. We were talking about some stuff and I said, ‘that would make a great blog post’ for lead generation strategies.
Basically, I was giving Peter feedback on some really good posts he had pushed up to his blog. Peter does a lot with video, which I suspect is because he’s a better looking guy than I am, and he had just posted a couple of these different these video blogs, or vlogs, as they are called. I was giving some feedback on these and my advice was essentially that he needed to ‘dumb-down’ his content by about fifty percent.
‘Simplify’ is probably a better word than ‘dumb-down’, but the bottom line is he needs to present his content in a more straight-forward way. Recently, I tweeted about a post titled Why the Goal of Blogging and Marketing is NOT to Sound Intelligent, which stated the case for simplicity quite well.
To bring my point home, I suggested he was in danger of slipping into The Guru Zone.
When he asked what I meant by that, I explained this was the consultant’s equivalent of the dreaded Friend Zone found in the dating world. For those unfamiliar with the concept of The Friend Zone (made popular in various movies and sitcoms), this refers to any situation where a member of the opposite sex whom you are trying to attract ends up relegating you to the role of a friend rather than a romantic interest.
As a consultant, I do not believe it is in your best interest to be viewed as a guru by your prospects. I can speak personally on this topic as, for many of years, I tried to sound really smart or intelligent, and in many ways tried to lead with my knowledge of sales and sales process in the misguided belief it would motivate people to hire me.
When I asked others how they tended to describe or introduce me, they would say: ‘Oh, I always tell people what a sales guru you are’. To be honest, it felt good to hear that, and it certainly fed my ego because the thing about being a sales Guru is that everyone wants to talk to you and get your advice.
Unfortunately, while everyone wants to know a Guru and get their advice, I have found that fundamentally people rarely want to hire a Guru and so it works against your lead generation strategies. There are lots of reasons for this, but the primary one is, in most cases, they really don’t need a guru.
Guru status presents a conundrum; everyone wants to have access to you as well as refer to his or her relationship with you. Unfortunately, they rarely want to pay you money to come in and work on their organization. I suspect that is because Gurus do really complicated and fancy stuff, and most organizations on some level know that they are not really at the level where they need complicated or fancy help. Most companies just need something simple.
So as funny as it may sound, I have worked intentionally to shed the Guru image. Instead, I strive to be known as somebody who speaks very simply and plainly about very basic problems that can be solved within a sales organization. I believe that as I have become more approachable, people are more comfortable engaging my services and I am able to have more of an impact, and isn’t that what every consultant should care about?
As consultants, we want Clients to allow us to practice our craft and pay us for our services. While it feels great to be held in high esteem and to be considered intelligent, at the end of the day we are trying to run a company, trying to build a consulting practice and trying to actually have an impact on the Client.
So if you are a Consultant, take a look how you engage with your Clients. Take a look at your content and ask yourself: Are you trying to be smart? Are you trying to sound intelligent? Are you trying to impress people? Or, are you trying to communicate in a way that allows your audience to meet you from where they are?
Being thought of as a Guru is very cool and it sure feeds the ego; it just doesn’t always pay the bills.
By Townsend Wardlaw