I posted this blog some time ago, but in the past several weeks I have directed so many people to it that I thought it would be good to bring it back for a re-post. Enjoy!

I’ve been on the road the last two weeks with a number of clients and I have to tell you that the swagger factor in the marketplace is low. That’s right: SWAGGER. That quality of confidence that provides patience in the face of stupidity, no-blink nerve when looking into the eyes of challenge and the slight strut of knowing you’re the best.  In talking to best-in-class sales leaders in a variety of industries who work with top-shelf branded clients, I discovered that they are still committing the following party fouls when approaching new prospects:

  • Running test-proof cycles for the most basic products and services;
  • Waiving engineering, design, drawing, setup and installation fees for first-time buyers on small orders;
  • Fulfilling tiny initial orders so that “you can prove yourself”;
  • Agreeing to long “try, wait and see” cycles.


Brando Don’t Audition. At some point in your company’s history of performance, serving demanding clients and developing your reputation, your company became good enough to answer this question from a prospect: Are you qualified to do business with me?

“Qualified” means competent and market competitive—in pricing, features and benefits—which further means that you should have the right to move past the first round (walking in the door).  Prospects ask for samples, references, test-runs and little orders as a credentializing step in the process of doing business with you. After you have credentialized yourself, THEN you get to the real issues of a potential business relationship, which means relevance and value at a scale past credentialization. That’s why I say, “Brando Don’t Audition.”

Marlon Brando’s has a level of expertise and notoriety that makes it ridiculous and insulting to ask him to audition.  His body of work of work speaks for itself.  Your company’s body of work should do the same.

When prospects ask you to credentialize yourself, you have to get them to see you as competent and competitive straight away so that you can get down to the nitty-gritty: the value and relevance of using your firm. One of the best ways to do this is to take the prospect back to your company’s body of work.

You say:

“Look, we work with X, Y and Z companies, solving problems like P, D and Q and with the scale of A, B and C. This tells you that we are capable of doing this type of work, consistently and at a market competitive rate. Otherwise these companies, with their rigorous qualification process and purchasing approach would never have hired us. If you agree that we can probably handle your work, let’s spend our time focusing on the specifics of this relationship so that I know whether or not we can be relevant and valuable on this particular program.”

People put you through the hoops of auditioning because:

  • They feel they have to. Some part of their process requires it.
  • They want to put you in your place. Like keeping you in the lobby 15 minutes extra before meeting you.  It’s a power play.
  • They don’t know you’re Brando. This is the place you have the greatest amount of control. Through your initial conversation and presentation, the prospect needs to understand that putting you through the hoops is a waste of their time and yours. You are the Marlon Brando of your industry!


The competitive market place has caused companies to stop swaggering. You have to get the swagger back or you’ll risk grinding out your confidence by going through the audition door.  And really, you should be going through the finalist door at the first knock.

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