Everything I know about sales and ethics, I learned as a stand-up comedianJerome Maynefraud
"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely
players ... "
I have been a performer all my life - a musician, an actor, an
improv-comedy performer and a stand-up comedian. On the other end
of the spectrum, I have participated successfully in business for
most of my adult life. I founded three separate corporations - a
real estate investment company, a mortgage brokerage firm and a
public speaking and training company.
I am proud that I have been able to find success with both the
left and right brain - until a few years ago when I realized that,
believe it or not, the qualities of a successful businessman are
the same as a successful performer.
A successful performer is genuine, truthful and passionate. He
is confident and trustworthy. You can't succeed in business without
these qualities either.
"Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you've got
- George Burns
Well, you can't fake honesty. I suppose it is possible to
construct a facade - a persona of sincerity, honesty and passion -
but for most people it will be transparent, at least more
transparent than the designer intended it to be.
I say most of us because there is the con man. He makes a false
connection with his audience/customer. He is looking for the quick
sale. Even if his scam is considered a long con, his desired result
is not a lifelong relationship.
It is interesting, however, that one of the qualities of a good
performer, as well as a good businessman, is confidence. Con men
exude confidence, but they lack something more important:
genuineness - the quality that creates buyers for life.
If you have ever been to a stand-up comedy show you know that
sometimes the comedians are funny and sometimes they are not. We
laugh when we feel that the comedian is telling us something true -
a real story or an occurrence that he actually experienced. If we
feel that the story is made up, we don't buy it, and we don't
We can watch a stand-up comedian who is telling a true story,
but if he is not sincere or imbued with true confidence, we will
not laugh. We may not be cognizant of his insecure delivery, but we
feel it. And we rarely laugh when someone displays weakness.
In business, the customer is your audience. He won't buy from
you if he doesn't feel that you are truthful and confident. We do
business with people we like, and we like people we trust.
We all have an inner voice that tells us right from wrong. All
of us, except sociopaths, are guided daily by this inner voice. We
get ourselves into trouble when we hear the voice and choose to
ignore it. We must trust the inner voice without questioning
My experience of being on the wrong side of the law did not make
me an expert on fraudulent behavior, ethics, business or sales. It
was my experiences after I suffered the consequences and the
humility I gained that helped me discover what works and what
doesn't in business.
Ethics is a set of principles of right conduct. Who decides what
right conduct is? Usually, a company or a professional association
gets to determine what they consider appropriate behavior. Clearly,
I had some trouble with ethics. It was something I had never
thought about. For the past eight years, I have had time to ponder,
and I believe I now understand the issue.
The confusion came when I thought about how someone could learn
ethics or teach it. For every right way to act in a particular
situation, there is a different situation that may require yet
another right way to act. There are too many situations, too many
variables. A code of ethics can't possibly account for every
situation. I know now that ethics isn't about what to do, it is
about how to behave. The actions we take and the decisions we make
are what develop our character and our ethical core.
In discussing genuineness, honesty and self confidence as they
relate to business and sales, a word about personal growth is
needed. You can't fake it and lead a dual life - at least, not for
long. Some people think that in business, they can lie (or as some
like to call it, "stretch the truth"), misrepresent, backstab and
just generally be a snake, and then go home and be a good parent or
friend. It just won't work. This type of behavior goes directly
against human nature.
Sometimes it is frustrating because we know that a competitor is
lying and cutting corners in order to get the business and make the
sale. His paychecks are huge, and so are his cars and houses. I
hear stories from business professionals about the frustration they
feel when they see false advertising and flat-out fraud being
committed by their competitors. In real estate finance, for
example, houses can be appraised for thousands of dollars more than
they are actually worth so that the unscrupulous competitor can
make a higher profit. The authorities don't have enough resources
to stop all of it. In the meantime, the honest ones sit in their
offices quoting the regulations. The only recourse for these
upright professionals is to accept the fact that dishonest
businesses will always exist. Whining about it only detracts them
from their own success.
Success in business is not about what other people are doing; it
is about you and how you conduct yourself. It is about your
personal integrity. How are you perceived in business? How do your
customers perceive you? Do they like you? We will do business for a
lifetime with someone we like. Sure, they need to deliver the
goods, but how they make us feel is equally important. We like and
connect with people we trust. We trust people who are sure of
Communicating ethically starts with communicating with honesty
and confidence. We need to be likeable. To succeed in business, we
need to present ourselves as trustworthy and genuine. This all
starts with having the guts to listen to your gut. There are no
tricks to connect with your customer. The key is to focus on and
develop your self confidence. Connecting with your customers or
your audience with honesty, trust and self confidence will propel
your business and your sales to the sky.
Every corner you cut trims a little piece from your soul.
Believe me, I know from experience that it is almost impossible to
get that back. There is no gray area. There is a thin black line.
You are either on one side of it or the other. There is no quick
sale and there is no quick buck. In the end there is just you, your
audience and trust.
Jerome Mayne is president of Fraudcon Inc. He is a
consultant, speaker, and a self-taught expert in fraudulent
behavior. Jerome is also the author of the book, "Life Saving
Lessons: The Diary of a White-Collar Criminal." He may be reached
at (612) 919-3007 or e-mail [email protected]