Three hundred years ago, calling somebody “enthusiastic” was an insult. Enthusiasm was seen a mental disorder where high spirits were overriding common sense.
About a hundred years ago, that started to change in the business world. Like many business fads it started in Sales. The first generation of sales trainers insisted salespeople would sell more if they were enthusiastic about the product. (“Sell the sizzle, not the steak!”)
About 20 years ago, the enthusiasm fad began to spread. Suddenly it wasn’t enough to do your job well; you were supposed to feel enthusiastic about it, too. Remember the commercial where factory workers gush about bringing great cereal to the world?
Enforced enthusiasm has long since permeated social media. Everybody is “excited” about something: job, project, family, pet, hobby, etc. There’s so much enthusiasm on LinkedIn that it practically oozes out of the screen.
There are three problems with all this pervasive and perfervid enthusiasm. First, much of it is as forced as a rictus grin. Second, enthusiasm has become so common that it’s become trite and therefore meaningless.
Third, and most important, enthusiasm is all about you.
As I’ve repeatedly explained, the number one rule of selling and of business is that it’s not about you. It’s never about you. It’s always about the other person: your customers, your investors, your employees, your coworkers.
You obviously want THEM to be enthusiastic about YOU, but getting all enthusiastic about yourself is the wrong way to go about it.
Even back in the day, enthusiasm was annoying. Think about it: what’s more cringe-worthy than a salesperson all hyped up about selling you something? And that happy cereal workers stuff? Seriously creepy.
Enthusiasm is equally a turn-off in social media and personal branding. For example, here’s an email I received a couple of days ago from an author promoting his new book:
Hey there, Geoffrey – I love your work on Twitter!
I’m the author of [yada yada yada] and former [yada yada yada].
I’ve got a new book coming out about [yada yada yada]
I’m send (sic) you a copy to read and then see what we might be able to do together to promote it’s (sic) launch.
There are many in your tribe who would love a cutting edge B2B Sales Strategy book and I’m so pleased with how it turned out.
Let me know when you get it! Thanks again for your great work, dude
Now, I checked the website for this guy and he’s got some interesting things to say. I may actually read his book. But look at how self-focused he’s let his writing become: “I love… I am… I’ve got… I’m send… we might… I’m pleased… Let me know…”
He’s obviously enthusiastic but it seems incredible odd to get that kind of energy from a person I’ve never met. He assumes that because he’s so enthusiastic about his stuff that I’m going to jump right on board and help him out!
It doesn’t work that way.
If he’d approached me with a simple question, like “dude, could you take a look at my book and possibly review it,” my answer would have been “Sure, why not?” But his enthusiasm drove him to be presumptuous, which irritated me.
Just as I don’t give a flying donut about this guy’s enthusiasm for his book (and found it off-putting), your customers don’t give a flying cinnamon bagel about your enthusiasm about yourself, your company or your product.
In fact, your enthusiasm is a turn-off when is starts to signal that you’re desperate or becomes a red flag that you’re self-centered. If it’s not actually scaring customers away, it’s at least annoying them.
Your customers want you to do something that will make THEM enthusiastic about you.
To do this, don’t flaunt your own enthusiasm. Instead, demonstrate, through actions not words, the five Cs: Competence, Confidence, Creativity, Commitment and finally, yes, the plain old Common Sense that our ancestors so rightly revered.