Douglas Kruger writes, speaks and coaches on what experts do differently. He is the author of several books with Penguin, two of which focus on expert-positioning. See him in action at www.douglaskruger.com. Subscribe to his daily motivational video ‘From Amateur to Expert,’ at www.youtube.com/DouglasKruger1
‘Quick! The business is dying! Find me the humblest possible consultant to solve the problem!’
Author Allen Weiss makes this tongue-in-cheek point in his book, ‘Million Dollar Maverick.’ And it’s a good one. As we strive to position ourselves as top-level experts in our industry, a demure and deferring persona does not serve us well. The opposite actually applies: Certainty and clarity win the day.
Clients want to know that you know your stuff, and that you know it better than anyone else. Is that what you currently portray? If not, you may be disqualifying yourself as an expert.
‘But my Momma raised me right’
This isn’t a clarion call to arrogance, and manners will always matter. Even more so at the highest levels of industry, I would content.
Instead, this is merely about the ability to state your value openly and confidently. Imagine yourself in the client’s shoes. There is little upside for them to a best-kept-secret or a reticent rescuer. Rescue boldly, if you want to lead an industry. The energy and conviction of a confident problem solver is attractive, and it’s not akin to rudeness.
My local barber is staffed by a friendly group of Moroccan men. They’re conveniently located and very good at what they do, even if I struggle to understand them. We get by on short sentences and a lot of pointing.
One day, I got the new guy. And it occurred to me as I took my seat and he started going about his business that there is such a thing as ‘too polite.’ He was tentative and cautious to the point of it becoming wearisome for me.
While his experienced seniors would simply take my head into their hands, move it assertively into position as they needed, and confidently run the show, all the while chatting up a perfectly unintelligible storm, the newcomer was timid. He was scared to move his customers around, or to take charge in any way. It was incredibly taxing. It flipped the dynamic and actually forced me to be in charge, which I didn’t want.
When you engage the services of an expert, you want them to own their role and lead the way. Yes, of course they should listen effectively and properly diagnose. But after that, it’s their show and they should run it.
Taking charge is one way to avoid the humility trap.
Showing before and after
Another way to avoid the humility trap is to clearly depict results. What desirable outcomes can you achieve for your clients? What impressive results have you had in the past? Are you shy to share them? Are you burying them in a blanket of silent humility?
Don’t. That’s the same thing as being completely unknown. That’s the opposite of an industry expert.
Those results, and their strong promise, are precisely what your buyer wants and needs. He or she is in the market looking for clear, positive outcomes. If you are too sensitive to announce the great results that you can achieve for them, you’re out! Someone with bolder assurances will win that business.
We never seek out the humblest solution. We seek out the best one. And if you’re not clearly showing that you fit the bill, you may be disqualifying yourself for earnings. You may be quietly and cautiously striking out as an industry expert.