My favorite episode of Mad Men is called “Lipsticks & Dipsticks.”
In his sales pitch, Don Draper says the following:
“Every woman wants choices. But in the end, none wants to be one of a hundred in a box. She’s unique. She makes the choices and she’s chosen him. She wants to tell the world he’s mine. He belongs to me, not you. She marks her man with her lips. He is her possession. You’ve given every woman who wears your lipstick the gift of total ownership.”
That’s how you make a case for yourself.
AND THE GOOD NEWS IS: You don’t have to be a corporate advertising executive to do so.
We all need to make a case for ourselves.
It’s how we get what we want.
It’s how we get where we want.
It’s how we get whom we want.
Here’s how:1. Do homework on yourself. Ask anyone who’s done online dating: A good profile is priceless. In fact, there’s an entire industry of consultants, writers and coaches – that you can pay – to craft your online profile for you. And my guess is, the demand for that service isn’t going away any time.
After all, most people don’t have a clue how to sell themselves virtually. Not because they suck at sales – but because they don’t know who they are. And it’s impossible to make a case for yourself if you haven’t memorized what the files say.
Therefore: If you want to carry your truth to market, as Dostoyevsky suggested, I urge you: Don’t defend your specialness – articulate your fabulousness. Lower the bucket into the well of your own divine gifts. Otherwise your capabilities won’t come across.
Remember: Every encounter is a situation to teach others what you are. The real question is: What’s keeping your true identity from being known to you?
2. Reframe your approach. Job interviews are marketing presentations for yourself. You’re not there to answer their questions – you’re there to make enough of a mark that people can’t leave you out. The secret is to be memorable for the right reasons.
Instead of dwelling on past experience, share how you see the current state of the industry.
Instead of giving predictable, stock answers, offer tips on how to make the company better.
Instead of passively answering people’s questions, take control of the conversation and address the unspoken need.
Instead of talking about your last job, envision what you would do if you were hired for this job.
The point is: Very few people change the world with their mouths shut. Don’t refuse to share your thoughts – that weakens them. People love to feel like they’re watching a brain working. And people want to experience the version you that you mean to mean. How are you putting your thinking on display?
3. Send a credible signal. The first time I walked down the Reno strip, I noticed an abundance of buffets. Now, I’m sure they were all delicious. But t problem was, every restaurant posted a sign that read, “Voted Best Buffet!”
And I thought, “By whom? A sample of customers? Zagat? The guy who owns the place?”
That’s when I learned: Credibility without specificity is audacity. If you want to send a credible signal, avoid unspecified attribution like the plague. Delete from your vocabulary phrases like:
Research proves. Scientists say. Psychologists report. Experts believe. They say. There’s an old story that says. I’ve heard. Most people agree. It is said that. Critics say. Statistics show. Somebody once said. The reviews say.
Keep in mind that you’re starting with a negative balance. We live in a low-trust culture, and the baseline posture of most customers is not to believe you.
As such, making a case for yourself means making morsels of your credibility expand in people’s heads. Otherwise they’ll pick someone else. What can you do – right now – to create greater trust on both sides of the sale?
4. Never underestimate the gravity of non-verbal presence. Not superficialities like wardrobe, smiling and body language. I’m talking about how you show up. What you make people feel. And how you leave people feeling. Those are the foundational components that either enhance or detract from the case you’re making.
The secret is to walk the fine line between confidence and arrogance. The former comes from the Latin confidentia, which means, “to trust.” The latter comes from the Latin arrogantia, which means, “to assume.”
That’s the distinction: Confident people trust in their abilities when they walk in the room. Arrogant people assume they’re the only people in the room who possess those abilities – then kill themselves making sure everybody else in the room knows that.
If you want to make a case for yourself, you have to keep unadulterated self-belief at the forefront of your attitude. Otherwise you’ll get rejected faster than a ginger kid at an orphanage. As Keith Richards wrote in his autobiography, Life, “Worry makes your performance so small that it’s not interesting to watch.” When you walk into a room, how does it change?
5. Stand firm against the seductiveness of slander. You see this in a lot of political elections. Candidates focus on childish, negative attacks that lack substantive data. Instead of showing the voters why they’re better, they ride the current of whatever media narrative makes the other guy look worse. And instead of making a case for themselves, they spend millions of dollars trying to pick holes in the case of the opposing candidate’s.
Now, historically, this tactic has worked well to scare voters; but it’s not especially effective for getting elected. And whether you’re a politician, company leader, salesperson or unemployed professional, the goal is stop making war on the competition and start making love to the customer.
As I learned from the credo of my client and strategic partner, Optimists International, “Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.”
Remember: Making other people’s case look weaker doesn’t make yours look stronger. Keep your eyes on your own paper. Do you still think negatively looks good on you?
6. Proactively explain the anomalies of your past. Everyone has baggage. It comes with the territory of being human. And to deny what you’ve been through is to dishonor your truth. But don’t expect it not to come up. Making a case for yourself means owning every minute of your personal history. And you better be ready to explain the speed bumps, should you drive over one.
The trick is: How do you stay loyal to your imperfections without weakening your case? My suggestion is to be selective about what you reveal. Focus on what you learned, how you grew and what you would do differently next time. No need to hold onto your past with an angry bite. As long as you remember what my friend Dixie Dynamite says, “What you’ve gone through is not who you are – but what you’ve chosen to do with what you’ve gone through, is.” What part of your past are you afraid to own?
7. Qualify yourself to the customer first. There’s one question you have to be ready for: “Why should I buy from you?” Whether it’s asked explicitly or implicitly, your answer determines whether or not you make money. For example, if you tell people, “I sell advertising,” you’re written off as irrelevant.
But if you say, “I teach people how to convert the leads (from ads) into money,” it’s a different ballgame. The key is to be proactive, interactive and reactive. To escalate when necessary. And to remember what Don Draper says: “Eventually, there comes a point where seduction is over and force is being expected.”
Remember: Self-qualification makes people’s jobs easier – including yours. Beat customers to the punch and you’ll beat competitors into the ground. How are you lifting people out of their petty preoccupations?
8. Paper isn’t enough. The problem with your resume is that you wrote it. You may as well call it a resu-me. Besides, anybody can look good on paper. My dog could get a job with the right resume. How you show up online, offline and in person is what determines the case you make for yourself.
Interestingly, the word resume comes from the Latin resumere, which means, “to sum up.” As such, your resume is anything (or anyone) that sums up the case you’re trying to make: Your Google ranking. Your testimonials. Your media room. Your positive repute in the market place.
Remember: If someone wants to hire you – for a job, a project, an ongoing gig or a one-time engagement – you better believe she’s going to validate your credibility from multiple sources. Not just from one piece of paper. What type of person do you have to become on the inside to become the person you want to become on the outside?
9. Be more infectious. A great book doesn’t inform you – it infects you. That’s the question I ask every time I sit down to write: What am I trying infect my readers with by writing this? After all, the word “infect” comes from the Latin inficere, which means, “to put in.”
That’s what you need to figure out for yourself: What are you putting into people? What are you infecting them with?
Then all you have to do is administer the needle, sit back and watch people turn. And keep in mind, while making a case for yourself is primarily a function of specific, focused action, the most beautiful, sustainable and efficacious mode of infection is through being. Not thoughts. Not words. Not even actions. Through being.
That means thrusting your whole self into the encounter, showing people your cards and passionately and respectfully presenting them with a compelling visual icon. Do that, and you’ll make them want to ride along with you. What are you putting into people?
REMEMBER: You are not a presumed part of the wallpaper.
Your voice will be heard.
If you hope to get what you want, where you want and whom you want, you’ve got to make a case for yourself.
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How’s your case looking?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
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