Becoming an industry expert may have a profound impact on your business and your bottom line.
I worked as a distributor while going to college. The company president was invited to be the main speaker at a large agricultural business event. The topic was selling, but as an executive, he was long removed from the sales department. So he asked his top North American distributor to speak with him on stage. That distributor was me.
That experience changed my life. By the time I walked off stage, I had earned my first real credential as an expert. Not bad for a farm boy from Ohio.
Networking is important, but it’s not enough to just fill your pockets with business cards. Creating valuable connections can start with building trust, and expertise can form the foundation of that trust.
The Value of Becoming an Expert
When the right people like and trust you, their fear bubbles will likely pop. They may give themselves permission to let down their guard and engage you. This is when big deals may start happening, and your business can take off.
As you build a network of advocates who admire and respect your expertise, the referrals may come pouring in. Deals can get bigger and may go more smoothly. People may also come to you for advice and mentorship. All sorts of other opportunities may float your way, like the chance to partner with a nonprofit, contribute to a publication or join a board.
A few weeks after my speaking opportunity, a marketing director for a mid-sized seed company who had been in the audience asked me to put together a program for the company’s top 1,600 prospects. It was one of the largest campaigns at that point in my career. That man also became a great friend of mine, brought me in on many other deals and even introduced me to my wife.
Turning yourself into an expert usually doesn’t happen that smoothly, but you may accomplish the same by consistently putting yourself at the forefront of your industry in well-executed ways.
How to Position Yourself as an Industry Expert
My speech was only the start of a campaign to position myself as an expert in the realms of relationship development, C-level sales and strategic gifting. It’s an ongoing process that requires focus, commitment and a variety of strategies, including:
- Writing articles for industry publications. In the age of the Internet, it may be easier than ever to find publications looking for new content. Start small by posting as a guest in niche industry blogs. Then, consider using those credits to pitch to larger publications. Make sure your articles are world-class. If you have the resources, consider hiring a content marketing company to cut your time and increase your placement rate.
- Publishing a book. This one can require a big time commitment (even if you hire a ghostwriter), but it’s often worth the effort. I was fortunate to collaborate on the bestselling book, Cutting Edge Sales. My position as an author definitely impresses clients, vendors and others.
- Speaking at industry events. Apply for speaking opportunities at the types of events your ideal clients or potential connections would attend. Focus on turning yourself into a dynamic, fluid and engaging speaker who can connect deeply with your audiences. If this doesn’t come naturally, consider hiring a speaking coach or someone who can give candid feedback.
- Focusing on the details. Showcase your expertise in everything you do. Bring a perfectionist attitude to your company. I make sure everything our clients see from our company is 500 percent better than they would expect, including simple correspondence. Receiving a handwritten note on a $9 letterhead can make clients feel like VIPs and communicate that we truly are different from anyone else in our space.
- Landing high-profile clients. When you associate with a company that others respect and admire, you might bask in its halo and earn big trust points. Don’t be afraid to pitch to the big guns in your industry.
Developing yourself as an expert can be significantly lucrative for businesses of any size, but it can be especially useful to small-business owners who can’t afford multimillion-dollar PR campaigns. This process just may take time, dedication and a commitment to creating excellent impressions. Utilizing these ideas can help you break through all the noise and distractions that fill the business world. It’s time to start showing your worth to the world.
For more insights on expanding your business, access our exclusive guide by Drybar founder and chief creative officer Alli Webb, Disrupt & Grow: How Drybar Became a $50M Business.
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A version of this article was originally published on October 19, 2015.