By now you know my sentiments regarding the strength of being an expert. It was not only the post done on Black Sales Journal 12/20 -Your Customer Needs an Expert , but my many references to it in previous posts. Being an expert gives you a type ofpreference that we all covet. Black sales professionals should want to be bestowed with this tag any time that they can have it.
This type of preference is earned by doing those things in preparation that lays the groundwork for the ‘expert’ status. We need to include doing things to get the notoriety and acclaim for having accomplished this groundwork.
What Makes You an Expert?
Being an expert means that you have a deep knowledge of a particular topic. I have advocated that expert status gives youpreference, yet you still have to earn it by doing what is right in the customer’s eyes. In other words, you still have to perform.
There are many things that may give the perception that you are an expert. We will cover the items that generally customers perceive as helping to earn expert status. Remember, perception is reality to the customer.
A positive perception can give you a preference that can be so powerful, possibly only being “triumphed” at times by the preference on the part of the customer of the “business friend” (Black Sales Journal 1/13 Deepening Customer Relationships) relationship level and some other relationship-based levels.
Here are some items that can help you be perceived as an expert:
- Vast experience
- Accreditations & Designations
- Education, Certifications, and degrees
- Renown Speaker
- Letters of Recommendations and Reference
- Association Membership
There may be other items, yet these can be meaningful in attaining an expert status.
Vast Experience – This is solid. If you are able to boast that you have a wealth of customers and have delivered solutions to them (Black Sales Journal 6/20 Deliver Solutions, Then Sell!!), you probably can boast to be expert on a class of business, geographic area, or product. Grouping your customers to determine your expertise would be important. You will need to “develop” a product or “package” offering, yet this is quite doable.
Accreditations & Designations – These are important, and very durable. Going through some type of training or educational program, and normally testing for proficiency in the end can result in attainment. In some cases, they are very formal, and in other cases, they are less formal, yet they yield a “diploma” in most cases. For example, my degree from a four-year university did not mean much in the world of commercial lines insurance, so I engaged in additional educational coursework and designations (CPCU – Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter, ARM – Associate in Risk Management, and AIAF – Associate of Insurance Accounting and Finance). I showed these designations proudly on my business card to show my expertise as well as my devotion to the industry that I was in. It was helpful in convincing many that I was committed and qualified.
Education, Certifications, and Degrees – This one is very much like the one above. Note that education can include the extent of your education; including bachelors and masters level education. Certifications can include completion of certificate programs that do not render a degree, yet do show the fact that completion of the program shows some mastery of the subject matter. A sales professional selling institutional food products and cooking implements that has a certification in food safety would be someone who a restaurant owner might listen to.
Acceptance as a Renowned Speaker – I recognize that every sales professional does not desire to be a prominent speaker. Some know a subject matter to such a degree that they can attain a “speaker” status. If they know the subject matter well enough to help others by speaking on it. If you are in that group, you can allow this to work for you by making sure that you have a platform to pass the information along. This includes press clippings, mentions in blogs, or entries in your own blog or written information.
Referrals and Recommendations – This one is simple from the standpoint of making sure that those who have benefited from your delivery of solutions “reduce it to writing.” It allows you to distribute the document to show your expertise. The objective is to have a proof source to support your strengths. It is more esoteric than some of the other solutions, yet it can be effective.
Association Membership – This one certainly does not denote true expertise, yet could support your commitment and professionalism. It can be used in conjunction with the others to show the commitment that might tip the scale. For example, if you are a sales professional who works heavily with the general contractors, you can join a chapter of a contractor organization. Joining the New York General Contractors Association would be evidence of support for the group as well as a commitment to working with contractors. It can result in you having the association logo on your card, and getting great information to use in your solicitation effort such as a members list, legislative information, and current issues and events.
Publishing – This would include having your information put to print, or could be something easier to do such as blogging. This is more work than many of the items above, yet can be fruitful. If you do it with other items like speaking, it could be quite easy as the subject matter would be something that you had an engagement on. One way or another, it would keep you in the public eye, and addressing the issues.
You Still Must Perform
None of this makes a difference if you don’t perform when you act in the capacity of the expert. Researching, answering questions, and acting as counselor (BSJ, The Consultative Selling Style 6/6/2011) only works, if you know what you are talking about, and give real value.
What is normally the case is that several of the items above are combined to assure a customer of the sales professionals expert status. The sales professional who not only has the education, but also the certifications and designations, coupled with the requisite vast experience might get consideration as an expert by a customer.
When the Black Sales professional has one of these combinations, preference is within reach as few customers will avoid dependence on a proven expert unless the water is teaming with them.
Prepare yourself, and claim your status.
Your comments are welcome.