Next month I'm speaking in Banff, AB for the International Distributors Association. They are a world wide non-profit association of independent businesses that supply quality parts, service and equipment to the heavy construction industry.

In preparation for any presentation, I always ask to speak with a number of stakeholders to learn about their businesses, the industry, and their challenges. Obviously, I'm not going to become an expert in their field, but it helps a lot for me to get inside their heads and see the world through their eyes. (Since I titled my blog, Two Hat Marketing, I'd better walk the talk!)

One thing that often happens is when an interviewee locks into a topic they want covered, but I'm not an expert at. For example, in this week's conversations, two people want me to share the economic situation in their industry around the world. Have you ever read anything from me about world economy? Another gentleman shared how great it would be to talk about succession planning.

Clearly, neither of these topics is something I should cover. Sure, there are examples of speakers desperate for the check who think they can just do a little more research on a topic and, voila, they're an expert. Early in my speaking career Brian Tracy gave me some great advice. "For every word you speak on stage, know 1000, Steve." In other words, talk your walk. Don't fake it by giving a book report.

Certainly, understanding these issues is important for me. It helps me empathize with what's going on in my audiences' heads and maybe influence some of what I will talk about — marketing and innovation.

I bring this all up because too often too many small businesses will take on jobs, or make promises to prospects they simply don't know anything about or, worse, they KNOW they can't do. 

The truth is people appreciate the truth. They appreciate when a supplier or potential supplier is 100% honest in their promises. Because, for the most part, everything is being commoditized today, the big things that separate us from the competition can often be found in the intangibles. I wrote about this is my free ebook, 11 Old Rules of Business That Still Matter.

Admit it. You aren't good at everything. Don't promise something you can't deliver. Tell the truth, even when it's bad news. And if it's bad news, tell it sooner than later. 

Your customers and prospects will appreciate that.

P.S. If you haven't read my free ebook, you can get it right now by clicking here.