How To Be Perceived As An Expert
In Your Chosen Field
by Tom Egelhoff
The title of this article may suggest that being "perceived" as an expert is somehow being untruthful, or presenting yourself as something that you aren't.
That is not the point of this article.
If you try and deceive your customers in any way your business is doomed to failure.
It's only a matter of time before customers get wise to your tactics and will abandon your business and take their friends with them. That of course is the last thing we want to happen.
What I want to show you is how to capitalize on strengths you may not know you have and how to present those strengths to others so they can see your true expertise.
So what exactly is this "perception" thing? What is it that makes a person a "recognized" expert in any field? Is it something that anyone can do? Can I do it?
My answer is yes, you can.
What Is An Expert?
According to my Funk & Wagnall, an expert is defined as,
"One who has special skill or knowledge; a specialist."
So, by this definition would a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) be an expert accountant? Do CPA's know more than regular accountants? Some do and some probably don't.
But, there is a perception that because of the extra training a CPA does and the testing to receive a CPA designation that that person might do a better job with your expenses.
Whether this is true in reality depends on the CPA? If you passed all your history tests in high school can you present yourself as a history expert? Of course not.
I feel the real definition of an expert is a person that I feel confident discussing a subject with and will place great weight on their advice.
The real perception lies with the observer not the expert. You are an expert if people say you are.
Let Me Give you a Perfect Example That I Often Suggest to People
Part 1. Send a letter to the editor of your local paper. Explain to them the type of business you are in and what you do. Let them know that if there are stories that pertain to this industry that you would be happy to provide them with any information about the industry they may need.
They will file this information because the one thing a reporter with a deadline doesn't want to do is research. They want a qualified source of information they can tap into and run with.
Having that letter on file, when a story comes up who do you think they're going to call?
That's right they should call you.
Why? Because you have "special knowledge" about that industry. If you're quoted what are people who read the article going to think about you?
Right. The paper found an expert on the subject and got their point of view.
Part 2 of the above example is even more exciting. Being in the industry you are probably going to have advanced knowledge of industry news before mainstream media will.
Information usually circulates within an industry before it finds its way outside that industry. So you can be the one to "alert the media" to a news worthy change in your industry.
And you'll more than likely be quoted as the source of the information.
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Knowledge Is Power
I suggest you start by taking a good look at yourself and honestly assessing your current level of expertise.
Some things to ask yourself-- Do you have enough expertise to teach a class on your business or industry? When you talk to others in your industry do you find yourself listening to them or do they listen to you?
Remember, expertise is just another word for knowledge.
How do you acquire knowledge about your business or industry? Two of the best ways are keeping contact with others in your business by comparing and exchanging ideas, and reading about your industry.
If you spend just twenty minutes a day reading something about your business or industry at the end of a year you'll know more than 75% of the people in that industry.
Information creates innovation. The more you know the more you can have an impact on your industry because you will be able to see things that less knowledgeable people can't see.
Albert Einstein, arguably one of the smartest people who ever lived, often said, "I never bother to remember anything I can look up."
The point here is that you don't always have to retain the information but you should know where to find it.
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You Know How To Do It and Others Don't
Everyone reading this article has achieved a certain station in life. Some may be CEO's others are just starting out.
Which ever you are here's something to think about. If I took all your possessions and money within five years you could have it all back again.
Why? Because you know how to get where you are today. And you would probably get there faster because you now have the knowledge. You don't have to re-learn that.
Most business people, for some reason, don't appreciate all the time and study it took to learn their craft. They don't feel special for doing it.
They sometimes assume that because they did it anyone can. They feel uncomfortable charging a fair price to customers for something that comes so easy to them.
Experts have special knowledge...knowledge others don't have and don't want to learn. I could probably "learn" to concrete my driveway but I don't want to do that.
I'm going to call someone who has the skills to do that job. Your (expert)ise is valuable. You're probably already an expert and don't even realize it.
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What Don't You Know?
In the "knowledge is power" section above I spoke about assessing your strengths. What about your weaknesses?
As your business experience increases there may be extra skills that you'll want to add to your resume.
For example, a competitor may provide a new service or procedure you don't know. In order to be competitive you are going to have to acquire that skill.
My father started a florist and nursery business back in the 1930's. Which was operated by my older brother until his retirement.
When my father started the business he didn't know the first thing about being a florist. What did he do to learn? He went to the next town and started talking to florists.
He asked to watch them design floral arrangements. He asked them how they bought flowers and who to contact. How did they charge for their services?
How did they advertise? In short he became a student of the industry. He found successful people who were doing what he wanted to do. He found experts. And became one himself.
The smart business person doesn't wait until they are forced to do it. The smart business person is in a constant learning mode.
It's been over 30 years since I sat in a college classroom but I still attend two or three seminars or classes on various business topics each year.
I'll probably read 20 books on marketing and advertising each year.
Evaluate the gaps in your expertise and start getting the education to fill those gaps as soon as possible.
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Show What You Know
Experts have a point of view and usually are prepared to back up those points of view with facts and statistics of some kind.
Your "point of view" is composed of two parts.
Part 1 is your view of the industry as a whole and
point 2 is how your business intertwines with that industry.
We are all people but we are all different because of our individual personalities. Its the same with a business.
The industry is a constant but each business reflects the individual experiences of the owner and employees.
A local woman here wanted to start her own beauty salon. Before starting her business she took the time to visit each of her soon to be competitors. She recorded the things she liked about each one and the things she didn't like.
When she finally opened her own salon she incorporated all the positives she had found and eliminated all the negatives and began a very successful business.
She developed a "point of view" that she felt comfortable working with and talking about to others.
Her salon looked like any other but the difference was her view of how to make hers' special.
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Document What Makes You The Expert
This is a very tricky area so you must be careful. Everything that touches a customer must be carefully controlled.
Brochures and other handouts must show your expertise in a very specific way. Let's examine the wrong way first.
"The blow your own horn" method is the most popular incorrect method of showing yourself as an expert. The entire brochure is I and me, with no mention of you or yours.
Why should a customer come to you? Because they are looking for some kind of benefit that your product or service provides. What do they find in your brochure?
All about how wonderful and smart you are and nothing that benefits them. Let's look at the right way to do this.
The correct way is to tie your expertise to the benefits that the customer is looking for. So you are the inventor of the new improved widget. So what?
That's great for you but what does it mean to a customer?
Instead, you are the inventor of the widget that has saved thousands of people time, money or made their life easier.
You know the product inside and out and can adapt it to their needs. Your knowledge and expertise must be an added benefit to the product or service. Not overshadow it.
There must always be a benefit linking your expertise and the product or service to the needs of your customer.
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Can You Position Yourself As An Expert?
If you aren't familiar with positioning See: "How To Develop Your Position Strategy."
If I were to say "computers," who would you think of? Probably IBM.
If I were to mention your industry who would come to mind in your town? You or your competitor?
In positioning we see the experts as the "perceived" best. The leaders. Are you a leader in your industry? If not here are some thoughts to help you become one.
Leaders are always well known. At one time there was no Microsoft, Amazon or Ebay. Each of these companies created a positioning strategy against their competitors to become number one in their respective industries.
Even though many copy cats have come along these companies maintain the perception that they are the experts.
The companies above have one thing in common. They became well known. Most by some form of advertising.
In your small town you can do the same thing by networking. Becoming involved in your community and organizations that will put you in direct contact with customers.
You can make yourself well know in a small community and never spend a dime on advertising.
Learn to meet people and turn them into customers. See: "How To Make Friends And Turn Them Into Customers."
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The Last Word On Being An Expert
In a nutshell, expertise is knowledge and letting customers know you have that knowledge. You have knowledge that others don't have and are willing to pay for.
Can you print your own brochures? If not, you need a printer. Can you paint your own car? If not, you need a body shop. And so on.
Don't sell yourself and your abilities short. It's not a stretch to become an expert or to be perceived as one. It has to be someone, why not you.
Return to the "How to Start a Business" Directory
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Based in Bozeman, MT, Tom Egelhoff is the author of How To Market, Advertise & Promote Your Business Or Service In A Small Town, and The Small Town Advertising Handbook: How To Say More And Spend Less. He is also a seminar and workshop presenter and trainer. He may be reached at 406-585-0219 or PO Box 271, Bozeman, MT 59771-0271
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