Be honest about your blindspots

By Andrew Neitlich

Have you noticed? Lots of professionals have personality issues: arrogance, rambling, not following through, passive aggressive, lack of eye contact, sarcasm, inability to listen, lack of compassion, lack of tact, etc. Many aren’t even aware of these issues.

Selling professional services is about more than content, asking the right questions, etc. It’s also about who/how you are. To use executive coaching jargon, it’s about how you show up, or your way of being. Successful revenue generators have a way of being that is likeable, that makes people want to work with and interact with them.

A blindspot is a personality issue that turns others off, but that you don’t even know you have. It’s important to know what those blindspots are, and address them. Otherwise, it’s as if you are walking around with body odor, not knowing why people are staying away from you.

Here’s an exercise that scares the heck out of most people, but that I ask my coaching clients to do:

Go to a couple of people you trust, and ask them if they wouldn’t mind giving you totally candid, honest feedback. Ask them for 3 things that they think are your talents. Then ask them for 1 piece of advice about something that they think keeps you from winning more business, something about who you are or how you behave with others (NOT your business model, services, marketing message; you really want to get at your fundamental way of being with other people here).

Let me know what you find out.

Another approach is to get yourself videotaped in a mock client meeting (or a real one, if you can get permission). If you haven’t seen yourself on videotape yet, unscripted and in a business setting, do it soon!

Of course, once you get some negative feedback, the question is what to do about it. There are a couple of answers:

1. Turn your blindspot into a strength. For instance, I’m working with an IT expert right now who is gruff, tactless, and sometimes obnoxious in his relentless criticism. I literally have to hold my tongue on phone calls with him while he lambasts me, and I am delighted that he lives 1000 miles away so we don’t come to blows. But he is aware of this behavior, and lets his clients know up front that they will get unbiased truth, like it or not. He lets them know that some clients can’t handle this, and have been known to throw him out, but he will not compromise. So he’s turned his rough personality into an asset.

2. Work to correct your blindspot. If you’ve read Marcus Buckingham’s books (First Break All the Rules), you know that this is not likely. It is far better to focus on your talents, because few people can change their weaknesses without lots and lots of commitment and work. So good luck on this suggestion.

3. Find a partner/employees who can cover for your blindspot, if you have what might be called a fatal flaw. For instance, I’m working with one client who has a key executive who is a real jerk. Employees under him rarely last more than 2 months. But he can close large technical sales to non-technical prospects. So, the CEO of the company is isolating this guy, so he focuses only on technical sales, while filling in his other managerial roles with new people.

So, if you had to point the finger at yourself, what would you say your blindspot is?

(Mine, by the way, is a certain sarcasm and cynicism. I’ve dealt with it via #1, by marketing myself to clients as someone who is a natural skeptic who won’t drink the company’s Koolaid. My clients seem to appreciate that, and many investors especially appreciate having a skeptic on board to keep them from getting too bullish about potential opportunities.)

Finally, please don’t ignore the importance of this blog. It may not read as practical advice, but nothing is more important than how you come across to others.

  • Ivan

    I am reading your blog for quite a long time now, and in the beginning I really liked it. I’ve also tried some of advices you suggested and some of them worked and some didn’t (so I am not sure, was the success due to the good advice or God know what). I am an economics graduate and running a web desing business in Eastern Europe. So, after reading countless articles on running business, marketing, and other stuff I must say I become quite disappointed.

    As you have pointed out many times, feedback is something that one should appreciate, so here it is.

    First of all, I don’t think I have ever came across an article (including your blogs) that are even remotly based on scientific methodology. All of the advices are based on few personal experiences, that can hardly be classified as valid experiments. The people that write them supposedly have tremendeous success with their teaching abilities (“tripled clients income in 2 months”, “increased profit margin by 700%” … etc). I have came to the point where I think of this miracle articles same as I think of horoscope, magic-diets and that ridiculous Dr. Phil. Just talk, and talk is cheap!

    I must say that reading and understanding one good marketing textbook (e.g. Kotler / Blimel) would do you more good than spending three years reading different blogs on the internet.

    At the end I would just like to say that you are good writer. I like your style, but you should work on your credibility. World isn’t simple, and there are no simple solutions, like you guys present it. Well… hope I haven’t offended anyone, just my opinion.

  • ivanv


    I don’t agree with you Ivan, you sound like you may have more experience in the field and you may be past these kind of issues, but I assure you, there are people like me who’re just starting, and I’m learning a lot from Andrew’s posts (and from personal experience of course).

    Maybe his solutions won’t work for everyone, but they get you to at least think about important issues.

    Like this one for example. I’ve never thought before about what Andrew talks about. I just thought I’d naturally focus on my abilities and try to hide my “blindspots”. I’m now going to try the friends/film thing and find a way to promote what I find :) Even if that doesn’t work, I’m sure I’ll learn something.

    Kind regards,

  • http://www.addictedtonew.com/ jnunemaker

    I think the important thing is to pick out the useful morsels and ignore the ‘increase sales 700%’ quotes.

    I enjoy reading Andrew’s blog. I don’t take every thing he says and run with it though. I pick out what I like and go from there. If this was a marketing book, it would need more scientific proof. It’s not marketing book though. It is a blog. A good blog. It is a place for Andrew to log his experiences and suggest things to his readers. If you don’t like it don’t read it.

  • Ivan

    Once again, my intention was not to offend anyone, especially not Andrew. The fact I am reading his blog for quite a while, certanly points out that I don’t find it completely negative. And yes, you are right… this is his blog and not a marketing textbook, so he can do with it whatever he wants, and I have the choice to read it or not.

    I would say that I appreciate the blog for the fact it rises issues, but I find it a bit pretentious to offer quick-fix-3-step solutions, that are supported solely through Andrew’s experience. I am well aware of the fact that it makes blog popular for the wider public (in the same manner, like those quizes in glossy magazines do, that can tell you if you are good in bed after you answer 6 questions… :) ), but then again that rises the question of the content’s quality and authors credibility.

    This is my last post on this topic, and once again, please do not get offended. This was meant to be a constructive criticism, though I could have probably used a milder vocabulary (maybe a blindspot, eeehh ;)).

  • mkahn

    Wow. None of these comments had anything to do with the subject of the blog they responded to.

    I liked your post, Andrew, thanks. It emphasizes the importance of humanistic psychology and the role it plays in business dealings. The marketing class I took did not cover this topic.

  • JMorrow

    Your post wasn’t defensive, Ivan, but I still have to come to Andrew’s defense here. This is a blog, not a book, or even an article. Blogs are generally short but frequent opinion posts. I believe this one meets that criteria.

    Bringing scientific data into a blog entry is also highly time-consuming. Given that Andrew posts several times per week, it’s just not feasible to spend several hours on each post, gathering data and presenting examples.

    Lastly, you don’t have to learn something new from a blog for it to be useful. Since I read 1-2 books per week about marketing (including Andrew’s), I’ve learned very little from his posts, if anything. Still, he reminds me to focus on principles that I already knew but wasn’t exercising. It’s like a little pep talk three times a week.


    My blind spot: customer service. I love sales, but once the customer is closed, I forget about them and their needs almost entirely. So, I staff my company’s with people whose sole responsibility is to communicate regularly with customers and give me detailed information on their needs.

    The blind spot still gets me in trouble sometimes, when the customer need something that only I can provide. Three days ago, I lost a customer because it. Today, a customer issued a complaint. Seems like I need to hire another customer service rep for this particular part of the business. Thanks for the reminder, Andrew :-)



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