Sales · Business Development

Fake it till you make it?

Martin Scott ► ► CyberSecurity Consulting

January 13th, 2016

I'd like to hear others input on the "fake it, till you make it" motto. I'm not talking about deception, but more of over selling yourself and then filling any gaps as you go. Or maybe that is deception. I really have no idea. Whats considered too far or shady? Or is it just best to not go down that path?

Matt Filios Growth Catalyst

January 13th, 2016

Hi Martin, 
I'm not a big fan of the "fake it 'til you make it" philosophy. It is generally easy to sniff that out and realize that someone is not upfront with reality, and they quickly lose much to all credibility. I'm more a big proponent of "act like you've been there before" mentality, which was taught to me ironically by my peewee football coach. Visualizing what it would mean to achieve success, or failure for that matter, and how you would act and react prepares you much more for what you have in front of you as a business leader, or really anyone in life. It's much more rewarding in the long run as well.
Hope that helps.

Sage Vann Building User Joy at Rooster Park

January 13th, 2016

I think the key here is not in the faking it part, but the 'making it'. Many times the internal emotional response to doing something grand or new is one of fear. Many popular neuroscience books discuss 'Impostor Syndrome', the feeling that strong, intelligent people often feel as if they are an impostor and that if everyone know how much they were 'making it up' or 'faking it' that they'd be laughed off. The truth is, that's where learning and growth happens. At the end of the day, you do it, do it, do it, and then one day, you realize that all the actions you have lined up in sequence along the way have empowered you to become the image of the person who was 'doing it' all along. I like Amy Cuddy's rephrasing of this old phrase, "Fake it, 'til you become it".

vu-nguyen Cofounder & CEO of Nilead informatics

July 6th, 2017

Hi Martin,

I think it depends on how you define this saying. For example, in software development, you have multi stages of building a product with the final stage being able to automate everything without any manual labor involved.

However, it's very costly in term of both time and money, and thus very risky, to try to reach this final stage at the beginning. So what you can do is you "fake" the automation stuffs. Lets use a naive example: on your agreement, you say you will backup the system for the customer every 24h. Ideally, you would do that automatically. However, building such a backup system can be costly for you at first and if you have no customer it will be a huge waste. So in the first months, you can have someone who actually perform the backup manually every 24h for you. Once you justify the benefits then you can actually go ahead with building the automation system.

In this way, you are not deceiving any one, you still deliver the exact service you promise promptly. I think Fake in till you make it work well in these situations?

Kyle Stearns I want to save the world!

May 28th, 2018

Hey Martin,

In my opinion, the reason honesty is the best policy is because it builds trust and allows your peers/clients to leverage your or your products strengths and also help improve areas of opportunity. That urge to over-pitch usually stems from a feeling of insecurity which usually sounds like "I'm not good enough" coming from that little voice in our heads. This pushes us to seek for approval/acceptance (security) so we over-exaggerate about a feature/application during a sales presentation OR (my personal favorite) put things like "Proficient in Microsoft Excel" on our resume's when we only know the SUM() function.

Then, when you achieve your goal (like getting the job/sale) despite lying, you are conditioning yourself to lie to get things that you want and are usually less motivated to fill those "gaps" because you have already reaped the reward. This can be an ugly path!

On the flip side, when you are authentic (and all great leaders have a great sense of authenticity), you are actually making the people around you feel more secure. There seems to be less "unknowns". The "gaps" in your resume or products/services are now areas of opportunity or a road map for how your peers or clients will work best with you/your product/service.

One of the ways that I have learned to deal with those insecurities is to just let go of all expectations. Having expectations can urge you to push your agenda onto others, which can create insecure feelings within your audience. If you expect a yes, and get a no, it doesn't feel good and, depending on the circumstances, can potentially create a very negative situation for yourself.

Hyper self-awareness is also helpful!

My two cents!


Bushra Saman Javed Co-founder of IU Media and Publication society, Proactive Learner, Enthusiastic, Team oriented

April 22nd, 2017

For short term it might appears appealing, but if you want your venture stand in market for long life avoid it as much as you can.

Josh Miller EVP, Country GM - Zapper USA

January 13th, 2016

Shocking candor is more powerful and more sustainable than faking it till you make it.

Jeff Mills Global Vice President of Sales at iMerit Technology

January 13th, 2016

Also, follow up with the client you lost.  They will be frustrated in 90 days if your competitor didn't deliver.

Ema Chuku Product Developer. Founder.

January 13th, 2016

Deception should not in any way be in this motto.. In my view, "fake it til you make" is giving positive and true perception (answers) to the audience, hold back the negative ones, until you make it, then give full throttle.

AJ Johnston Owner at Law Office of Ann E. Johnston

January 15th, 2016

"Fake it, until you make" is not referencing lying.  It is referring to being assertive and confident, but, not aggressive, candid and decisive, but, not wishy-washy, and willing to learn and grow, not fudging. Yes, it stings when you lose to a competitor, but, you can look at yourself in the mirror without cringing.  Lies will catch up with lairs.  Maybe not today, but, it is going to catch them at some point.

Misha McPherson Passionate about building great companies, culture, and the customer experience. Currently hiring for sales.

January 13th, 2016

Martin, if this is about a sales cycle, just stay in touch with the customer. Over-promising/under delivering is one of the surest way to increase churn. Not only that, but I'd start digging into that competitors customer base. If they have lied to one customer, they have lied to others. Good way to pick up new customers.

Remember that this is a very small world. I remember which sales reps and vendors are good partners and which are not. I both buy and talk about the sales reps and vendors who are ethical. I avoid (and tell others to avoid) those who are not. 

Keep it clean :)