Karin’s Leadership Articles

The hard sell is so old school. Your customers and employees have become conditioned to respond to any hard sell with a Google search to find out if what you’re saying is too good to be true. The minute the Google-search has begun, you’ve missed the opportunity to build trust and connection and outsourced your brand positioning to the vortex. Not to mention giving them a chance to take a second look at your competition.

And yet, the world continues to be filled with executives over-selling their vision, recruiters over-selling unrealistic lifestyles, and salespeople with a hard sell of features and benefits. More than ever, telling the whole truth has become a competitive advantage.

Outsmart the competition by being an explainer.

3 Ways to Outsmart the Competition by Being an Explainer

If you want to outsmart the competition, don’t sell, explain. If you want to engage your employees with your vision and aligned with your brand, be sure they can see themselves in the bigger picture.. They take time to explain your ideas, perspective, and values. Welcome the tough questions and be willing to risk a few slippery slopes. Embrace the tough conversations.

1. In Marketing: Teach Before Selling

So many people ask me why I give away so much content. I’ve been told “I don’t understand your model” more than once. But the companies who work with me get it.

My mission to grow leaders is vital. If you really can’t pay, you still need our Winning Well tools and techniques, and I will share for free. I also know that the best work I do is face-to-face, helping you and your team go deeper. The deeper magic happens when we explore your world together.

I encourage you to adopt a similar approach. No matter what your mission, be a teacher. Help people understand the industry and the competition.  Give boldly. Important work will follow. If it doesn’t, improve your message.

2. In Recruiting: Give a Realistic Perspective

I was shocked to hear one of my MBA students come back disillusioned from a recent sales pitch of one of the big consulting firms. It was the exact same pitch I rejected 20 years ago. The story was “work-life balance.” The label I heard back then was “more nights home than away” (which I soon found out counted weekends, vacation, and holiday… essentially 4 nights of every workweek away.) Today, all it took was a few quick searches to hear the real message “We make it easy for you to hire people to raise your children, clean your house, say your prayers and do your gardening. You won’t have time.”

If you want to recruit the best talent away from your competition, work to be an attractive place to work.

3. In Engaging Commitment: Tell The Truth

For God’s sake (and everyone else’s), don’t BS. If you are in a conference room trying to spin an uncomfortable message and your heart is sagging, listen to the voice. Your team will see right through any spin you are weaving. Do your best o tell the truth with the best words you can muster. If there’s still stuff you can’t share, whatever you do don’t lie about the future. You will win hearts, minds, and engaged arms and legs by telling the truth at every juncture. I’ve made a career of telling bad news well. Nothing opens the door for true engagement better than that.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Steve Borek

    I’m honest and realistic with each and every person I meet.

    I educate them on the fact the overwhelming majority of people who call themselves a coach are consultants. They’re not a coach.

    I explain the importance of due diligence when hiring a professional certified coach as they would any other professional i.e. doctor, attorney, dentist, accountant, etc.

    People seem to appreciate my transparent approach.

    • Karin Hurt

      Steve, Thanks so much for sharing your approach.

  2. Joy Guthrie

    Excellent post, Karin.

    Our approach is to be honest in our feedback, in our estimates, and in every interaction we have (no hidden pricing).

    A key for us is to listen to what people are saying and not saying (when they speak with us alone or in a group of people is the message different). We’ve often found that teams either understand enough of their problems that they know how they can improve their communication; or, they aren’t hearing the message that they are giving to others. The key thing we try to do is to show people what they are saying. More importantly, to give teams new tools to use in their communication tool box.

    • Karin Hurt

      Joy, you have a beautiful way of showing people what they are saying through your visual interpretation. Thanks!

  3. Terri Klass

    Terrific series, Karin!

    Love your point: “No matter what your mission, be a teacher.” When I share helpful information with others to aid them in finding a creative solution, they are so appreciative and will think of me with their next project. Generosity goes a long way.

    I also think being genuine and authentic in who you are and what you can and cannot do is critical.

    Thanks Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, Thanks so much or adding that. I do think people remember generosity.

  4. LaRae Quy

    Love this definition of think slow to think fast: Take time to explain their ideas, perspective and values.

    It’s a great strategy and I’ve seen it work many times.

    I also believe that a humble but intelligent explanation of ideas, perspectives, and values is also important. This means being genuinely authentic — a great way of outsmarting the competition.

    • Karin Hurt

      Yes, thanks for adding the humble part. That’s vital

  5. Tes Staffeld

    I completely agreed with your approach on explaining. I sell eye glasses and I explain every part of a pair of glasses with every patient. It may seem like it takes longer, but they are quicker about making decisions when the time comes. I find it also reinforces any decision they make. They remember WHY they made the decision. I find if I don’t explain it, my sales falter and I spend twice as much time with them because they can’t make a decision. Believe it or not, people don’t like making decisions about things they don’t know or understand.

    • Karin Hurt

      Tes, GREAT example. Thanks for adding that. Just perfect.

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