• Bill Petrie

Learning Authenticity from a Used Car Salesman

Five ways why being your true self is your single best differentiator in business

Think about your last car purchasing experience and how you felt when you left the dealership: did you feel a sensation of joy or hard-fought relief? My sense is that even if you drove out with new wheels, the overriding emotion was one of relief.

From the moment I walk into a dealership feeling like a piece of meat being dangled inches from rabid wolves to the second I walk out feeling as if the 1987 version of Mike Tyson has worked me over, I loathe the car shopping and buying process. It’s not just the silly – and annoying – “let me check with my manager” dance or the sheer amount of time wasted. It’s the expensive, bewildering, and generally useless dealer add-ons: key protection, paint sealant, nitrogen-filled tires, upgraded floor mats, and my least favorite, the extended warranty. The entire process is phony, and it creates an enormously negative buying experience because it’s rife with inauthenticity. In other words, I don’t particularly appreciate how the experience makes me feel: dumb, beaten-down, and exhausted.

In both life and business, feelings drive decisions. This is why when I last purchased an automobile in 2018, I avoided the entire dealership process and bought the car online. I put in the time – on my schedule – to research the vehicle I wanted and felt both knowledgeable and competent about the purchase. Then, when the time came to buy the car, I knew what I was willing to pay and approached the process with the attitude of “take it or leave it” rather than engage in the usual car buying tug of war. I’ll never buy a car another way because the process, as well as the people, was authentic.

This “take it or leave it” approach also translates to truly standing out in a competitive marketplace. For most of my life, I played the part of who I thought others wanted me to be: the comedian, the peak performer, the successful executive, the engaging speaker, and the skilled presenter. Years of keeping my true self inside brought only unhappiness and a sense of dread for fear that others might find me out for the fraud I felt I was. However, when I finally became comfortable with my true self and started sharing that with the world, people around me noticed a huge difference.

This “here I am – accept me or not” attitude has tremendous benefits in business – especially in an industry where product differentiation is non-existent and most seem content to win the race to the bottom. Here are five reasons that being your true authentic self is your biggest differentiator:

  1. Ignites human connection – humans are electromagnetic miracles that crave connection. When you are authentic, positive, and genuine, positive energy flows like a river. You are never better, more creative, more caring, or more compelling than when you are authentically you, which connects you to both co-workers and clients.

  2. Creates a path to vulnerability – when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we open ourselves to deep connections with others. Living honestly and transparently, even when sharing your shortcomings and mistakes, builds unity.

  3. Learn about others – If you live your life sitting in the bleachers – always being afraid of getting in the game by opening up and letting fear be the guide – you miss out on the beautiful experience of learning and knowing others on a deeper, more meaningful level. Being authentic creates room for others to do the same.

  4. Brings you into the present – when you decide to show up as your authentic self, you have consciously moved into the present and into a sphere of real-time connections. Here, you can make educated and enlightened choices, ones that lift you and others. When you live in the present, you experience one interaction at a time despite the disruptive nature of a rapidly evolving and distracting digital world.

  5. Shifts perspective – when you no longer feel the need to hide behind what you believe others want you to be, you set aside phoniness and open up to a world of endless and positive opportunities. It’s more than simply being comfortable in your own skin; it’s allowing others to be their authentic selves as well.

Authenticity separates the good from the phenomenal – whether it’s a person or an organization. It’s at the core of the work we do to support our clients and help them achieve their goals. In a highly commoditized industry, the most significant competitive edge is to be authentically you. If you don’t, your clients may walk out of their next interaction with you with a sense of relief rather than one of joy.

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