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The Fake It ‘til You Make It Fallacy

By Peter Weddle, CEO TAtech

According to some, “Fake it ‘til you make it” is the underlying credo of many tech companies in Silicon Valley. Basically, it involves saying whatever you need to say while hoping it doesn’t catch up to you before you actually have something worthwhile to say. I have no idea if that’s so in the Valley, but what I do know is that the exact opposite – transparency – or communicating with clients in an open and honest way is the secret sauce for success in the TA solutions industry.

Now, let’s be candid. Our industry has put up with – well, let’s call it “fuzzy transparency” – for years. (And recruiters aren’t free of such behavior either; just ask job seekers about the content of their job postings.) Nevertheless, I believe that the vast majority of the companies in our industry strive to be honest when dealing with customers. At the same time, however, at least some providers wink at or even encourage exaggerations and omissions, especially by their salespeople when they’re describing the capabilities of their products. Most recently, it’s involved claims about the application of AI in TA solutions, but such loose definitions of the truth been around since the dawn of the industry.

That behavior, unfortunately, is having an impact on the customer’s perception of all of us. For example, Deloitte reports, “overall trust in the technology sector has fallen in the United States, as the sector moved from first place among the most trusted sectors in 2020 to ninth in 2021. Recent studies indicate that many tech customers, both end users and business-to-business (B2B) purchasers, lack trust in the organizations from which they purchase. In a fall 2021 survey, almost three out of four B2B purchasers surveyed said that “tech vendors typically fall short of being honest.”

This simmering distrust among customers hurts business in several ways:
• First, it dramatically lengthens the sales process as customers go through extensive vetting to try and ensure that what’s being represented by a solution provider is accurate.
• Second, it preconditions the customer to look at solution providers not as a partners but as untrustworthy “vendors” out to cut corners and avoid living up to the contract.
• And third, it significantly diminishes and sometimes even eliminates solution providers’ ability to build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with their customers.

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As these things are often described, this customer mistrust is a systemic problem. According to this conventional “wisdom,” individual companies can’t address the issue by themselves. I believe nothing is further from the truth. In fact, every company can and should stand up for genuine transparency and then leverage it to their own advantage.

To do that, they should:
• Make open and honest communications the standard in the organization. For everyone.
• Next, continuously audit performance and hold managers accountable for any shortfalls.
• And third, publicly affirm the company’s commitment to transparency.

As long as such a commitment is genuine, its public affirmation can actually help promote business. It will help to differentiate an organization in the eyes of customers and do so for all the right reasons. Indeed, it is the perfect antidote to the unhappiness of all those disgruntled tech buyers Deloitte found in its survey.

That’s why we developed a Code of Ethics at TAtech. It enables our Members to pledge in public that they will adhere to the highest standards when conducting business and that one of those standards is Honesty. Here’s how it’s described in the Code; “We will not engage in deceitful or deceptive business practices. We will deliver our products and services as they are represented in our sales and marketing materials and provide accurate data on their performance and our operations.”

That level of transparency reveals “fake it ‘til you make it” for what it is: a losing proposition.

Food for Thought,

Peter Weddle has authored or edited over two dozen books and been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions.