Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to Become the Go-To Professional

You're good at what you do...but do your prospective clients know that? Too many professionals rely on their credentials and certifications to communicate their competence. The problem is that most certifications hold little meaning for your market because people outside your profession usually do not understand (or don't care about) the meaning of those letters after your name.

To get more and better clients, you need to stand out from the crowd by proactively positioning yourself. The question is not "Are you good?" but rather "Do people know what you're good at...and how it benefits them?" Communicate the answer to the latter question clearly, and your market will choose you before any of your colleagues.

Here are three principles to help you become "The Go-To Professional" in your specialty and your target market.

1 - You are your positioning

Imagine a hot day, and you open the fridge to get a cold drink. What do you reach for? Even more important, what word popped into your mind and triggered a decision? Most likely it was not a generic category, such as cola, beer or juice, but a brand name. Your positioning is what people think about when they think of you, and more specifically what trigger situations cause people to think of you.

When you present yourself to someone you are meeting for the first time, the natural reflex is to explain what you do. Avoid this. Talking about "what you do" sabotages your positioning, because your listener will naturally lump you in with other people they think do something similar. Instead, introduce yourself by getting people to think about a trigger event that you want to associate with your name. For example, in my case, I say: "Do you sometimes find you are very busy but you have no incoming cash flow? I help solo-professionals improve their positioning in order to attract better clients and improve your cash flow."

Find trigger events that are important for the kinds of clients you want, and where your strengths become the answer to the situation they want to resolve.

2 - You are your clients

When people consider whether or not to do business with you, they look at the kinds of clients that you have. If you take on too broad a range of clients, prospects will find it difficult to see themselves as clients of yours. Narrow your target market to a specific profile, and then become the preferred provider for that profile. As a solo-professional, it is easier and more profitable to be a big fish in your own lake than to try to survive among many fish in a crowded sea.

Your prospects will also look at the results you create with your current and past clients. If your clients are happy, word spreads fast in the social network. If your clients are not happy, the word spreads even faster. Implement a client satisfaction program, and share the success stories of your best clients.

Becoming the Go-To Professional means building a community of people who are passionate about the results you create and who support what you do. Learn to build and nurture a network, starting with your best past and current clients. As the network grows, you will attract similar great clients who will give you the opportunity to do your best work.

3 - You are your message

You are highly qualified, but do your prospects know? Given two professionals of equal qualification, one who works quietly and the other who is visible in the media and on social networks, who do you think will attract more clients? By demonstrating what you know, you educate and prepare your prospects so that when they become your clients, they are ready for you and you can do your best work.

The starting point for any professional is to keep a blog where you share news about your specialty, success stories, and interesting tidbits, to your audience of past, current and future clients. Promote your blog on your business cards and your website. Then look into social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn depending on your audience. You may also want to present speeches and workshops. To prepare for this, join a local Toastmasters club. Writing articles for on-line and off-line (print) media is another way to be seen. The key idea to remember is: "The path to becoming an authority is to first be an author."

To take your professional practice to the next level, you need to break away from the herd and become the preferred choice of clients who recognize the value of what you offer and who are ready to commit.

People always have a choice. Make it easier for them to choose you. By establishing yourself as the Go-To Professional, you get happier clients who enthusiastically refer you to other people who are also the right fit for you. This means you will earn more, work smarter, and be happier!

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