How to Be Your Company’s Best Evangelist
I mentioned in the last episode, and I say it in the intro now, that, in addition to running my own appraisal company in Michigan, I’m also the head of community, culture, and coaching, as well as what is called the Chief Evangelist for a company called, True Footage, a start-up in what is often referred to as the ‘prop-tech’ space. Prop-tech is just a shortened version of the words property technology, and refers to any one of the hundreds of advancements in technology in the real estate space. In addition to having some pretty killer tech in development to help appraisers be considerably better at what they do, we’re solving some pretty big problems facing the appraisal industry.
Since mentioning it on the last couple shows, I’ve gotten lots of email and private messages about it and so I figured, what a great opportunity to talk and teach on the topic. It seems to have thrown some of our subscribers and listeners since they’ve never heard of that title or role within a company. If you just Google the term you’ll find all kinds of articles about the role, some get it right, many don’t, in my opinion. The term evangelist comes from Latin and Greek roots meaning, ‘bringer of good news’, or ‘one who spreads the good news’. To evangelize something is to believe in it so strongly that you want to help other people see what you see. This is the part the articles get right. What they often get wrong is that they tend to portray the Chief Evangelist role as something like a town crier or pitch man for the company. ‘Here, Here! Everyone gather ‘round, I’m ‘bout to sell you something!’ The title alone would make anyone think that the Chief Evangelist is going to pitch the company at all costs, no matter what, and that’s simply not the case.
I’ve had the great fortune to be good friends with a couple other Chief Evangelists in other successful companies, so I’ve been able to learn from some I consider to be the best at what they do. The best Chief Evangelists working today evangelize around the problems that need to be solved, not the company or product. If the product, the service, and the company are awesome, then of course evangelizing about it is easy. However, that’s not why I took the role. I took the role because I have been evangelizing about the problems in the appraisal industry for 12-15 years of the 21 years I’ve been running appraisal companies. I see the problems and challenges and I talk about them. We’ve been trying out new products, new ways to go to market, new ways to address the challenges of the appraisal business, and ways to profitably scale my own appraisal business for almost as long as I’ve been in business for myself. We find out what works and what doesn’t and then teach that to others, either through the podcast or through direct training and coaching. I’ve been a Chief Evangelist for the Real Value Group of companies for the past 20 years, I just never put that on my business cards because people tend to want to see more conventional titles like, Chief Appraiser, President, or Certified Appraiser to feel comfortable hiring you to appraise their real estate.
Nevertheless, to clarify for our listeners and subscribers, I didn’t join True Footage with a demand to have that particular role, nor was I out looking for yet another thing to get involved in. I accepted the role because I am passionate about the problems and challenges appraisers face in life and business. I’m passionate about solving those problems for the humans facing those challenges. I’m an evangelist for the solutions to those problems and challenges, and always have been, which is what this podcast has always been about. Go back and listen to the last 20, 30, 40 episodes, the last 5 seasons, and see if you don’t realize that I’ve been evangelizing around the problems and challenges that we face on a daily basis, and then trying to offer some kind of solution, or at least a perspective, on how to address those challenges. No, I accepted a role with True Footage because I am passionate about helping human beings and having the greatest positive impact on the greatest number of human beings I can with the time I have left. I am passionate about addressing and solving some of the biggest challenges in the appraisal and appraiser industry and I just happened to cross paths with another CEO who sees the exact same challenges I do. He gets it like no other CEO of any other growth company, any other startup, or anybody else out there trying to solve problems for appraisers. After spending several months talking to see if we truly shared a vision, the decision was made and here I am, simply expanding the number of people I can have a positive impact on with my evangelism around the problems, and not necessarily the product.
Do I think our solutions solve every problem for every appraiser or appraisal company? No! Do I think we’re the right company for every appraiser? No, just as every appraiser is not right for True Footage. However, that doesn’t change the problems and challenges that almost every appraiser and appraisal company faces daily. The reality is that this company is not the right solution for every appraiser and I have no problem saying that. Just as my appraisal company is not right for every client, and vice versa, True Footage is not for everybody. You have to first see the issues and challenges facing appraisers before you’ll ever be able to look at a potential solution and see it as valuable for you. You have to want something bigger and better than you have now, not everyone does. You have to be a good communicator and like people, not everyone does. You have to want to make more per hour and in less time than you do now, most people don’t know what their dollars per hour are. You have to be motivated to grow and scale, not everyone does, and that’s ok. But it doesn’t change the fact that all of those things are issues, problems, and challenges and that’s what a real evangelist speaks about: the problems not the product.
Why do I encourage everyone to become an evangelist for their own company? The better question is, why wouldn’t you? If you understand what it means to bring the good news, and truly believe it, why not let everyone know that you have a solid understanding of what the problems and challenges are and that you’re doing something about it. So, the first rule is to evangelize the problem, not your product. As an appraiser, a Realtor, a lender, or whatever you’re passionately doing in the marketplace, don’t talk about yourself and what all the stuff you’re doing, talk about the issues and challenges of your clients and customers. Empathize with their hopes, dreams, fears, and aspirations and talk about those things. Add some value with your knowledge in areas that may speak to their needs, but don’t talk about yourself, let people want to learn more about you because of the problems you’re solving for them. People are smart, they get it when they hear and see it. If you’re an appraiser trying to build your business, start setting up office talks at real estate and lender offices and speak to the issues facing them with regard to the appraisal process. Bring them in as your partners, almost as if you’re speaking to and educating your own staff. Bring the good news and add value and see what happens. When you evangelize around the problems and not your product, people sense that you’re genuine and passionate about solving those problems and you don’t have to sell yourself.
The next rule of being a good evangelist is to be intentional about it. Many of you are already doing this without even knowing it, but once you realize that you’ve been evangelizing around solving certain problems and challenges, now your charge is to become very intentional about doing it, and doing it consistently. We’ve talked about core values and mission in many past episodes and I’ve said many times that to make your core values or your mission a real thing, and have people actually have a lived experience around your values and mission, you have to be intentionally preaching on them all the time. You have to get so good at speaking about them with real emotion and passion that they just come out of you naturally and it becomes infectious to those around you. They want a little of what you’ve got, and the best way to get on the same high as you is to first be around you, second is to start speaking the way you speak about those things. Other people want to be around people who make them feel good and lift them up. People really want to be around other people who have the ability to get them to see and feel in ways they haven’t been able to before. When you’re intentional about your mission, your values, and the problems and challenges you see and are tackling, others will naturally follow.
The third rule of evangelism in your market space is to build community. If you’re not building community, ie., bringing people together around the solving of these big problems and challenges, then you are playing too small, in my opinion. I have to remind myself sometimes, and in turn remind you that I am speaking to those of you who want to grow, to scale, to be better tomorrow than you are today, and to keep up and hopefully outpace the evolution and change happening in every industry. If you’re hearing this and thinking, “yeah Blaine, I’m good with my 5 or 10 orders per week. I’m good working out of my back bedroom and making a decent living. I’m good with where I am and where I’m going”, then I may not necessarily be speaking directly to you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those things, It’s just that I am typically speaking to those who are not necessarily happy with the status quo. They want a real business, not just a decently paying job. If you don’t know the difference, I’ll explain it to you in the simplest terms. If you go on vacation and your income stops, you don’t have a business, you have a job. If you get sick and can’t do what you normally do each day to earn income and your income stops, you don’t have a business, you have a job. And if all of your income comes from the trading of your hours and life energy each day, you don’t have a business, you have a job. That’s not to say you don’t or can’t love your job, it doesn’t mean you don’t make good money, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a good life, it just means we need to stop referring to your income machine as a business. If you keep calling it a business, you’ll tend to believe that you have something you don’t, which is the freedom to go where you want, when you want, with whomever you want, in whatever fashion you choose, and still earn income.
If you want to take your job into business territory, you’ve got to be able to create a structure that allows you some more freedom than what most appraisers have. When they stop working, the income stops. That’s a sure sign they’re trading their time for dollars and we must try to move away from that as quickly as possible. One of the ways to do that is to build a movement that other people want to be part of. To build a movement, build a community first. To build a community, you’ve got to become a beacon of light for otherwise independent people to move toward and eventually gather around. As my good friend Ethan Beute, Chief Evangelist at BombBomb says, “be open, be available, be of service”. Magical things happen when you start to build community and, eventually, a movement. You attract people to you who might otherwise not cross your path. With more people flocking toward you, you start to meet people you can help, and those who might be able to help you. Be open, be available, be of service and watch what happens. Being a good evangelist is recognizing that you have something to offer in the way of added value around the problems and challenges in your industry and then building community around it.
The 4th rule for being an evangelist is to have a teachable point of view. I learned this one from one of the greatest evangelists I’ve had the good fortune to learn from, Mr. Toyoda. As one one my first great leadership teachers, he taught me early on that I didn’t have to be smarter, better, or more advanced than the people I might be speaking to, or leading in a class that evening, I just needed to have an opinion about something and then be able to teach around that opinion. He called it having a teachable point of view. Be clear about your point of view and then develop some kind of value add or curriculum around that point of view that might help others grow and be better as a result. If you’ve been doing this already, which is suspect many of you have, you’ve been evangelizing without even knowing it!
The last rule for this episode on being a good, or maybe a better evangelist, is to learn to sell without selling. Guy Kawasaki, one of the first and only Chief Evangelists at Apple, says that evangelism is the purest form of selling. When you talk about the problems and challenges, instead of yourself or your product, the selling happens naturally. People naturally want to be around others who are not trying to ‘pitch’ them on something or sell them something they don’t need. For appraisers, it’s difficult to sell an appraisal anyways since it typically needs to be ordered by a lender or an AMC, if you’re doing lender work. However, an area I see appraisers selling in all the time is trying to sell themselves as the best choice for work. “I’m the best because of this or that!” “we give the most accurate valuations because we’re better, smarter, more tuned in, blah, blah, blah…”, and it doesn’t work, at least not at scale. You can only scream in a noisy market that you’re the best for so long before you lose your voice. Stop screaming and just become the go-to authority because you address the problems and challenges in your industry or market. Evangelize around the problems and not your product and people will flock to you. The perception will be naturally that you are the best at what you do when you evangelize on the problems and not the product. People will line up at your door to do business with you.
This is essentially how we built the Real Value Group up as the premier appraisal company in our area. I was out in an office somewhere every single week giving talks and teaching classes and never once mentioned my company. I didn’t have to. Of course, there would be somebody to introduce me and say where I was from, but I never pitched Real Value Group. I don’t carry business cards for that reason. People would come up afterwards and ask for my card and I’d say, “I’m so sorry, I don’t carry cards. You can find us on our website or through the host who brought me here today, but I’m just here to teach and solve problems.” Naturally, if they wanted to do business, they always found us one way or another. I’m not advising you not to carry business cards, by the way. I’m advising you to adopt a mindset of not needing something in order to get more of it than you can handle. One of my teachers, the great Pat McNamara, 20+ year veteran of Delta Force, the elite military counter terror unit, always says, “the probability of achieving the outcome you desire will increase once you let go of the need to have it.” Of course, he’s not the first to say it, it’s been said by sages, masters, and teachers throughout history. Let go of the need to have something and the likelihood that you’ll achieve or experience it grows exponentially. I don’t care if it’s a relationship, a car, a goal, or anything else. I always go into those talks and classes not wanting anything but to educate and be of service to the people who have come to see me. The natural result and outcome was more business than we can handle, which allows us to pick and choose our clients, the highest fees, the best talent, and the best work.
Evangelize the problems and challenges, not the product or service, be intentional about it, build a community around you and around the problems and challenges you’re addressing, have a teachable point of view, and don’t sell. Give up the need to have something and your odds go up greatly that you’ll have it anyway. If you want to be ahead of the curve of the growth and change that is occurring in the industry, my suggestion is to become an evangelist around some of the big challenges and problems and find solutions. The world will look very different in the next 2 to 5 years in almost every area of life and business and the best way to survive and thrive, in my opinion, will be to get in front of it. Be a leader, be vocal in a positive way, be a beacon for others to move toward and follow, build a community of like minded people, and be intentional about it. If it’s not something you have the energy to do, I highly recommend becoming part of a community of people doing just that. It’s ok not to be the one leading the charge in some area. Sometimes the best place to be is on board with others doing just that. Be a supporting member of those making positive changes and dealing with problems and challenges. I support you, my friends, in whatever path you choose, as long as it’s a positive one for you and for others.
Until next week, I’m out…