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7 Ways to Win as an Underdog

Few actually get to be the 800-pound gorilla. The rest have to battle them. Here are 7 surefire ways to come out on top.
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The business world loves a champion, but there's something more romantic about winning as the underdog. Legends are made of people who overcome all odds and declare victory over power, money and resources. But rarely does that achievement happen due to luck. Conquering Goliath requires strategy, intent and the ability to persuade others to take up your cause.

Grassroots movement expert Amy Showalter knows about successfully going up against the giant.  She's helped more than 150 businesses and organizations rally people to move seemingly unmovable mountains. Showalter shows in her book Underdog Edge that there is actually a measurable underdog benefit. When people are declared underdogs, others imbue them with positive characteristics. Most believe that underdogs work harder, play by the rules, are more moral people, and are nicer. This often inspires more powerful individuals to take up the underdog cause through upward influence.

To get that spark of underdog magic and support when you are the little guy, Showalter helped me create this list of seven actionable tactics.

1. Garner Underdog "Street Cred"

You can't just declare yourself the underdog. The magic comes when others deem you worthy. It helps to project the right image with these four attributes: Be unbiased by telling both sides of the story, demonstrate you have suffered for your cause, maintain an honorable reputation, and play by the rules.

2. Take It to the People

Effective underdogs are vivid; they go out and persuade in person. They know that Facebook and Twitter are no match for face-to-face emotional connections. Leave the office and go where powerful influencers can directly experience your dedication and resolve.

3. Show Your Grit

Great underdogs are courageous and resolute in their causes. They demonstrate grit through undying determination against all odds. Persistence and bravery will often overcome high intelligence in competition.

4. Connect With Empathy

Successful underdogs make it their business to know the value systems of their influence prospects and frame requests accordingly. The needs of the prospect take priority over the immediate message. Once the connection is made, the prospect will be open to supporting the underdog with conviction.

5. Rally the Troops

Winning underdogs don't work alone. They have an effective "underdog pack" with members who represent the 3 C's: Cohesive team leaders who keep the group focused on the task, Connected team members who open important doors, and Converted team members who used to be the opposition.

6. Build Relationships

Good underdogs build lasting relationships with those they are trying to influence. They know that quick transactions have little lasting value. Go out of your way to establish and provide value for your prospects before enlisting them in supportive action.

7. Keep the Passion in Check

While passion is important for underdogs, they must be likable to be effective. People who scream and shout might get attention, but won't gain influence. Excess passion makes the underdog seem unpredictable and self-absorbed, pushing away those who can help. Remember, when you're the underdog, you succeed on the support of the powerful people who surround you.

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IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Oct 18, 2013

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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