Expert Is, As Expert Does

(Listen to this post, here.)

Let me ask you a question.

Here you are, email open, the words I’ve written in plain view.

Maybe you’re learning something new; maybe you’re being reminded of something you knew but forgot.

Either way, and this is the question, how do you know if any of what I am telling you is true?

When I say relationship building is critical, or package pricing is best, or desperate prospects are always trouble, how do you know that’s good advice?

The answer, I hate to break it to you, is you don’t.

Rather, you assume I know what I’m talking about based on a bunch of subjective, biased, far-from-scientific factors:

Maybe my bio inspires confidence.

Maybe the testimonials on my web site are compelling.

Maybe the way I write feels experty to you.

Maybe (most likely) you’ve seen my photo and figure there’s no way this guy is getting by on looks alone.

Whatever it is, all these things are symptoms – not proof – of expertise.

glasses baby

And yet here you are, reading – and sometimes acting upon – advice from someone who, for all you know, is just making stuff up as he types.

Baby elephant signage is the best way to attract high-paying professional service clients. See what I mean?

The point is, and unlike a select few fields such as pole vaulting, stand-up comedy and competitive eating, which are true meritocracies, expert positioning in business has less to do with what you know and more to do with how you look.

In business, experts are the people who look like experts.

And, given that experts can charge higher fees, attract better clients and benefit in any number of other ways, this suggests taking several steps regarding your marketing (he said, expertly):

  1. Remove the red flags.Nobody gets hired based on having shown up for a job interview wearing shiny shoes and a clean shirt (okay, other than members of Congress). That said, if you arrive without those things, the interview is as good as over.Likewise, the first step in looking experty is getting rid of “red flags.” A web site that looks like it was built by your nephew in 2002. A LinkedIn page with no photo and a couple of dozen contacts. A blog whose last post occurred during the Bush Administration.All that stuff is in your experty way. Fix them.
  1. Grow an opinion (or two).Experts have strongly held beliefs. Running shoes are harmful. Tax increases are bad. Tall people are scary.Whatever it is, experts believe in things and they are not afraid to share them.Does that mean some people will disagree with you? I can guarantee it.

    But it’s either that or fall back into the pack with all the other equally hard-working, equally capable, equally experienced people in your field.

  1. Don’t hedge.Having opinions is important. How you express them matters too.I’m not suggesting you become arrogant or closed-minded. But I am suggesting that you speak and write with confidence. Remember, if what you’re selling is advice (and if you’re not selling advice, you’re probably selling the wrong thing), your clients want to believe that you know what you’re talking about. (Nobody likes a wishy-washy heart surgeon.)

One more thing…

Many times, when I talk about expert positioning, people think what I’m saying is, “fake it until you make it.” In fact, I’m saying the exact opposite.

You’ve already “made it” technically. You’re a perfectly capable and qualified coach, writer, financial planner, recruiter, consultant, or whatever.

If there’s something holding you back, it’s not your intelligence, ability or experience. You’re way over the bar on all of those. More likely, the limiting factor is your presentation.

Of course, it’s quite possible I just made that up.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are you a member of Congress? Give examples.
  1. Who’s your favorite expert?
  1. What’s a strongly held belief you hold regarding your work?

Share your comments below!

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5 thoughts on “Expert Is, As Expert Does

  1. Art

    1. No, I still have a conscience.
    2. My wife. She says she’s an expert in everything.
    3. If it is to be, it is up to me. Like whether or not I want to sign
    the check to pay my payroll taxes.

  2. Charles Alexander

    1. Nope. Just today, I checked my account balance before going to the grocery store to buy wine and chees….I mean beer and chips.
    2. Seth Godin. With Louis CK as a close second. He could be number one, if he didn’t have so much hair.
    3. The content you create has to be GOOD. Mediocrity is killing Independent George.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I’m a Seth fan too, Charles. Had not thought about LCK that way, but you’ve got me thinking now!

  3. Diane Spadola

    No, in fact I have less interest in politics now than I did before November, and that was a minuscule amount even then

    You are!!! (Is this a trick question?)

    Children’s entertainers should be held to a higher standard than those who cater to adults: certification, insurance, hygiene product safety and criminal background checks!!!


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