The idea of “fake it ’til you make it” is pretty common in most aspects of doing business online. If you’re one of the three people out there who’ve never heard of this phenomenon, allow me to enlighten you.
Basically, you have people who have achieved nothing, aren’t doing anything and haven’t done anything selling people on the idea that they are not only very knowledgeable about a topic but that they have been very successful at said thing. Their desired outcome is to make big claims of success, then have people buy into whatever they are selling where they can re-affirm their exaggerated claims with some kind of actual proof.
For all intents and purposes, these people are telling lies. We could mince words and try and be polite, but why? These people are frauds, they are behaving in a deceptive way. No need to be nice, just call it out and move on.
The biggest group of people I’ve run across over the years are what I refer to as “pretend experts”. They portray themselves as thought leaders in their space and make grandiose statements that usually have no substance behind them but look great on a meme poster.
I have to admit, I find these people fascinating to observe, so let me share my observations with you.
Before we begin, let me just start by saying I’m going to focus on the people who are really good at performing this act of fraud. There are the amateur pretenders who pop up occasionally, but they’re not worth observing.
I think the people who are really good at this are psychopaths. I’m not a psychologist and I don’t play one on TV, but I’m quite comfortable in making this call.
Just to be clear, there is no clinical psychological definition of “psychopathy” or “sociopathy” but they’re just pop psychology terms used to classify some generic personality disorders that skew towards extreme anti-social behaviour – nobody can revoke my non-existent psychology license because I’ve cleared that up now.
Psychopaths have virtually no moral compass, have zero empathy and are usually exceptional actors. They have no regard for other people but are incredibly skilled at making you believe that they have intense feelings and concern for the welfare of others.
On the other hand, sociopaths are less calculating and more opportunistic, so they are less likely to act or play along to get their desired outcome. They tend to play a very short game, but similar to psychopaths, they have no empathy – they generally don’t care about and cannot relate to others.
The common misconception is that psychopaths are somehow violent, but the vast majority of people who could be classified as psychopaths aren’t violent. So I’m not saying these internet charlatans will murder you in your sleep if you don’t buy their latest info product.
Going back to my comments, the folks who waltz in with some product that makes big promises with outrageous “supporting” claims are probably sociopaths. They are really just opportunistic hucksters trying to make a few dollars before moving on. They are the internet equivalent of snake oil salesmen.
The psychopaths, they are more worrying. These are the pretend experts that I refer to. They’re playing the long con. They’re networking with the right people and have the selfies to prove it, they go to all the events and are the life of the after parties and they usually present a very slick exterior.
This is all part of the charade that they are creating. In fact, if you watch the “ascent” of these people, you’ll often find for the first while they have nothing to sell or offer. This is a telltale sign of their “pretend expertise”. They’re busy building up their facade, no need to worry about delivering outcomes or appearing to actually know what they’re talking about. Having to demonstrate expertise before they have their fortifications built is risky.
When they do start trying to monetize their position of fake expert status, what you’ll see is a very sales heavy approach. It’s a numbers game, if they can get people to buy in, that’s all that matters. Remember these people are psychopaths, they’re not interested in delivering value for money.
Any products or services they offer will be very superficial and designed to sell the person on hope rather than an outcome. They’re Hopium Dealers for sure, but only because they have nothing else to offer. They might “niche down” but it will always be at something where a lack of results is easily ascribed to a deficiency in the buyer. Rarely do these folks ever get into anything concrete because that would require actual expertise.
That’s all well and good, but how does someone new to a market not look like a psychopath pretending to be an expert?
My advice, focus on the actual results you’ve achieved, the things you’ve done or are currently doing and keep your outrageous claims to a minimum. Look at creating case studies about work you’ve actually completed to support your positions and know these case studies cold. Reach out to your existing and previous clients and ask them for testimonials that talk about how you helped them achieve actual, tangible results. When you do this you’re speaking from a place of experience and expertise is implied rather than requiring you to try to establish expertise.
I always attempt to be myself. If you’re humble, talk about what you really know, share with people what you’re working on and keep pushing forward with being better, then eventually, your audience will establish you as an expert in their mind which is the best place you can be.