Posted 10th July 2010.
In recent posts I’ve been musing over the concept of Authority Marketing. After my last post where I talked about the benefits of establishing authority, one reader rightly posed the question: “what’s the difference between authority and expertise?”
It’s a good question. We all feel intuitively that authority implies something more than expertise – but it’s sometimes difficult to put your finger on exactly what it is. Is authority just the upper echelons of expertise? Or is there something more to it?
Authority is Expertise + Influence
For me, the key is that while an expert is defined by what they know; an authority is defined by who listens to them.
In other words, you can be an expert by knowing a lot. But to be an authority, people have to listen to your expertise and act upon it.
An authority is the expert people turn to for guidance. When they speak, people listen.
So to become an authority, you must not only build your expertise, you must build your influence.
I’m very tempted to do a 2×2 matrix here with expertise on one axis and influence on the other. But I’ll refrain from consulting cliches on this occasion.
To be influential, you must communicate, and you must be persuasive.
And this is where many professionals fall down. They have a high degree of expertise, but they're unable to communicate it in a persuasive manner to their target clients.
Some don't communicate at all. They're either uncomfortable marketing – or they've fallen into that terrible psychological trap of believeing they're entitled to be respected and listened to because they're experts.
Others communicate badly – they stumble, or confuse and complicate.
Others communicate, but don't persuade. Their communication is informative – but it doesn't guide listeners to action.
Authorities simplify (without oversimplifying) the complex. They give clear recommendations and courses of action to take. They communicate frequently and effectively. And they're listened to.
What will it take for you to become an authority in your field?
Posted 3rd December 2008.
I was listening to an audio version of Dave Lakhani's book Persuasion today and he made a point which really made me sit up and think.
His point was that when persuading – or in our case when selling – it's critical to understand the underlying beliefs of the person you are trying to persuade.
People tend to demand far more evidence for a statement or recommendation that clashes with one of their existing beliefs than they do for one that is more in line with what they already believe. So as a sales strategy, it's usually far more effective to work to position your recommendations as building on an existing belief than to have to challenge and overcome one.
In reality, most salespeople rarely think consciously about the beliefs that might be impacted by what they are selling. But a little thought can cast a great deal of insight and help shape a more effective strategy.
For example, if you're selling some form of management consultancy services then it may seem that what you're doing doesn't challenge any significant beliefs in your potential client. After all, you are highlighting ways for them to improve their business by using your services – what could be challenging about that?
But if what you are proposing to do falls under the remit of the potential client or other person with influence over the buying decision then you had better be careful. It could well be that a belief you are challenging is their belief that they need to be seen as not having any weaknesses in their capabilities. In other words, if they need you to help them, doesn't that make them a bad manager? Shouldn't they be able to do this stuff themselves? Very often potential clients are seriously concerned about whether hiring you may make them look weak in the eyes of their managers, staff and peers. What you are selling challenges their belief that they need to be “on top” of all the activities in their remit.
For this reason, when selling consulting services I always look for a “get out clause” for my clients. A reason why it's OK for them to need me that isn't damaging to their self image and their fear of what others might think. I explicitly look for a rationalisation for why they can't do this themselves. There has been a change in what customers need that they couldn't have been aware of, for example. or perhaps they need to focus on managing their team and optimising today's performance while someone with an “objective viewpoint” looks at their strategy. The logic doesn't have to be iron-clad. Just something to make them feel at ease and comfortable hiring me without feeling they are admitting failure somehow.
Of course, different issues will arise in different selling situations – but it's surprising how often what seems like a purely rational buying decision will have a powerful emotional dimension due to the impact of the decision on the underlying beliefs of the buyers.
* Image courtesy of Skeptical Enquirer magazine.
Posted 5th June 2008.
The importance of passion for salespeople seems to have sparked the imagination of many bloggers recently – myself included. Reading the posts reminded me of my all time favourite Winston Churchill quote:
Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe.
I can't think of any more eloquent way of highlighting the criticality of passion and belief if you want to sell anything from a product to an idea.
My original “In Praise of Passion” article is here