On my last post, I talked about the huge difference between companies and individuals who are considered experts, versus those who are perceived as being competent or proficient. The difference between these categories may not seem great but the rewards in terms of compensation, respect and self-determination can be substantial. This principle is true in sports, entertainment, medicine, law, business, and equally true in B2B marketing and sales. Expert status has a large economic payoff.
Today, we are going to discuss the factors that can cause you to be perceived as an expert, and thus, worthy of greater recognition and compensation. I acknowledge that many experts are not considered as such, and many non-experts are thought of as experts. This is unfortunate but the reality is that no matter how good you are, the marketplace validates your expert status. You know what I mean if you have ever had the thought: “I know more than that person about my craft. Why is he/she rewarded more richly? Probably it is because they have created the perception – whether or not backed up by reality – that they know more and achieve better results.
In Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he explains the 10,000-hour rule. This rule states that people don’t become “masters” at complex things (programming, music, painting, free throws) until they have accrued 10,000-hours of practice. This would mean practicing your craft every working hour for five years. But the truth is that in an average work week, we spend only a fraction of our time practicing our actual craft (e.g. B2B marketing) and many hours doing repetitive tasks, going to meetings, research, administration, etc. Have you ever told someone, “Sorry but I can’t go to the weekly staff meeting because I need to get in more expert practice?” I think not.
The good news is that you probably don’t need to spend 10,000 hours to gain expert status. You just have to practice the right strategies. Here are six that can help you get to acknowledged expert status.
1. Narrow focus. It is hard to gain expert status as a generalist. Figure out what you can be good at within a fairly narrow band. Doing this, you can often catapult to the top of the expert category much faster than presenting yourself as an expert generalist.
2. Continual learning. B2B marketing and sales is a fast moving environment. You need to keep up with what is happening in your industry and devote at least part of your working hours to following thought leaders about new strategies, technologies and media.
3. Expert practice. Note that I said “expert practice”, not just practice with the goal of always optimizing, streamlining and applying the latest techniques to stay at the top of your game.
4. Credentials. These are the proof points that back up your claims of expertise. Such credentials can include university education, industry certifications, publications (books, papers, video, audio, blogs) and presentations at industry conferences. Testimonials and five star reviews are also good credibility boosters.
5. Results. Nothing will catapult you into the expert category faster than a reputation for producing strong results. This is true for a Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, and it is equally true in the B2B marketing and sales world. A reputation for generating awareness, leads and revenue will keep you employed and attract plenty of clients, especially if you have an important and needed niche.
6. Self-Promotion. Assuming you execute on the five previous steps, you need to let the world know about what you are doing and why it is special. You can showcase your expertise through publications, social media and your website, and whenever possible by speaking at industry conferences and online events.