Articles written by guest contributors

Fake it till you make it
By Jeremy Martin

“Fake it until you make it” is a phrase I heard from industry consultant Jeffrey Scott about 10 years ago, and it’s stuck with me ever since. What does it mean? First, let me define what it does not mean to me: I cannot lie about my capabilities, or claim other’s work as my own.

The essence of the phrase is this: Adopting the appearances and processes of the company you want to be, even if you aren’t there yet. How do you do this without being dishonest?

One contractor shared how he was determined to break the million dollar ceiling. He bought “the most expensive truck he couldn’t afford,” wore button-down white shirts to consultations, bought an expensive watch, and supported the charities & golf clubs his target clients patronized. In other words, he projected the image of the highly successful businessman he wanted to become. He faked it until he made it!

There are many tricks and methods to effective sales processes. In my opinion, confidence, professionalism and empathy are key traits for selling. You can fake the confidence and professionalism of a much larger company, building trust and confidence of your clients.

How? Again, I won’t misrepresent my abilities and experience; if I have never completed a specific project, I will let my client know that, but I will also explain why I’m confident we can complete it successfully.

Building confidence
How did I build my confidence? Obviously, as we built more complex projects I was able to draw on that. Today I’m fortunate enough to be able to meet clients during the day rather than evenings and Saturdays.

But when I was on the jobsite all day and meeting clients late in the day, I had a couple rules for myself. I would shower, shave and wear clean clothes to the meeting. Have I ever met a client after just whipping off my dirty shirt in the truck and slipping on a clean polo with a splash of cologne to hopefully cover the day’s sweat and grime? Of course I have!

But I don’t recommend it. The client may or may not have noticed the smudge on my jeans. But I’m sure I didn’t portray the confident businessman I wanted to be.

Why? Let me explain how I normally dress for a meeting. Button down shirt with logo & name (although it’s NOT white!), tan pants, casual shoes, nice belt, fresh cologne. I feel like the confident, successful businessman I want to be. And, I can sell projects that would far exceed my wildest dreams from 10 years ago.

What’s wrong with throwing on that clean shirt tucked into almost-clean jeans while still wearing a day’s worth of dust and dried sweat? I look and feel like someone who’s just too busy to focus on anything, including this meeting with the client, and I’m apt to miss important details. I don’t feel like I’m on top of my game, and it shows.

Professionalism is more than dressing sharp
Confidence and professionalism can go hand-in-hand. Dressing in a professional manner helped me both look and feel more confident. Professionalism is more than just dressing sharp, though.

It’s making sure the phone gets answered. It’s the detailed proposals and drawings. It’s dealing with the specifics, while selling the abstract. Explaining specifics of how we build a patio helps show the client that we are professionals and can be trusted with their project.

Selling the abstract? Come on, quit selling pavers by the square foot and sell the dream. It’s the memories of hanging out on the patio with their closest friends and family that the client is buying, not a paver patio! I have won multiple jobs strictly based on our attention to detail in proposals. I did my best to ensure all my documents looked the part of a successful business, rather than something from just another guy with a pickup, shovel, and wheelbarrow.

I have the privilege of teaching installer courses at various events, and have a passion for teaching and the green industry. I like to think that I’m an effective speaker, and am paying it forward. Many mentors helped me reach the place I am today. To start my career as a speaker, though, I had to want this dream. Particularly the first couple years, I had to fake a confidence that I didn’t feel.

One caveat on faking it until you make it. I mentioned empathy above. Don’t attempt to fake empathy. If a client happens to tell you about a recent loss, don’t pretend to be empathetic if you don’t mean it.

Many of our landscape maintenance clients are older, and many have lost a spouse or family member. You know, I can truly empathize with the ones who lost a spouse to cancer, as cancer has touched multiple people in my family. If a client asks me to pray for them (yes that happens), I assure them that I will. Empathy is different than sympathy; it’s slipping into another’s shoes and doing your best to understand and share their emotions. It’s not something that can be faked.

In summary, dress for success. Dream big. Be the person you want to be. So cliché – and yet so true.

Jeremy Martin co-founded Willow Gates Landscaping in 2005. He became an ICPI instructor in 2016, NCMA in 2018. He also founded Dust Killer Tools to help his company meet 2017 OSHA silica standards. Email Visit and

Digital Edition
February/March 2023 2023