How to capitalise on your expertise
Luke Harvey-Palmer says expertise is a powerful tool in business.
It's a great feeling when you know you're expert at what you do, but it doesn't help your business unless others know about the depth and breadth of your experience. Here are 10 tips on making sure you're making the most of your expertise.
1. Make sure you are an expert
“There is no more powerful tool to being known as an expert than being an expert,” says Luke Harvey-Palmer, head of mobile design and development agency Alive and a mentor of Club Kidpreneur Foundation, which trains young people in entrepreneurship.
"Nothing will detract quicker from your expertise than lack of it. Or worse: amateurism.”
2. Define your field of expertise
In our increasingly specialised world the fields of expertise are narrowing. So while this might create space for more people to be an expert, Harvey-Palmer says this creates the need to define your niche of expertise.
He says: “That whole notion of expertise – those words like 'expert' and 'maven' – they're overused in Australia. You have to be able to define what that means: 'I'm an expert in my field because…' You need to very quickly and with great clarity get to that point: how can I help you. By defining yourself as an expert it helps you do that.”
3. Without trust you get nowhere
Trust is key, says Sara Lucas, head of women's financial literacy education group EnrichMe and founder of women's networking group Heads over Heels.
“Being recognised as an expert means that people believe you know your subject well, which is one thing, but if you want to build business from your expertise then there's another element to add too: trust,” she says.
“The worst thing you can do is bamboozle people, boring them stupid with your knowledge of the subject matter. People are simple creatures, we need to be engaged and feel heard to build trusted relationships. You can be the world's leading expert in your subject matter but if people don't trust you or find you credible, they won't do business with you.”
4. Be honest if you don't know something
Sometimes you might feel pressure to know everything in your field of expertise, but the fastest way to undermine your credibility is by pretending to know something you don't, Lucas says.
“If you don't know something, say so, don't bluff. Say: 'What an interesting thought or clever question, may I find out for you?' And follow up with the answer thanking them for raising the point.”
5. You have to 'talk it'
Part of being recognised as an expert, says Harvey-Palmer, is being consistent and persistent. “You have to go out and talk it.”
He says all your channels – website, business card, speaking circuits, books, forums, blogs – need to have a streamlined message about your expertise and you need to keep reinforcing this message over time.
Lucas says living your brand in this way is also a way of building all-important credibility. “If you set yourself out as an educator in financial literacy, then be one, always. Weave stories into your conversations about little things you or friends have experienced that give snippets for people to take away and use afterwards.”
6. Talk it to the 'parrots'
Find the influential information channels in your industry or field of expertise and talk to them.
Harvey-Palmer says: “The point everyone misses is that the best people to talk to are your parrots - the ones that will be telling everyone about you. For most people that's three or four people. If you want to be known as an expert in your field, it's about being known by the right people.
'Parrots' are the target advocates in your space and may include media, industry representatives, individuals or bloggers. “You don't need to be a rocket surgeon to work out who the parrots are in your space. It's all about being targeted: who is going to tell more people about your story,” Harvey-Palmer says.
7. Offer certainty
Harvey-Palmer says people in business are looking for certainty, and that is the reason they are happy to pay a high price to work for the best in the business: the expert.
“It's expertise that allows me to know exactly what it is I will do to get you the result. If people can see what you do, if it's clear, then you can more easily be seen as an expert,” he says.
“You need to spend days, or even weeks, outlining to yourself what it is you do and how you are going to deliver on your promise.”
And the more clearly and in more detail you can explain this to customers the better.
8. Be passionate about your work
Authenticity is one of the best ways to build trust, Lucas says. “Be authentic, and passionate about your topic. People read visual cues more than they listen. If you're passionate about your topic it will show in your smile, your easy manner and your enthusiasm."
9. Do amazing things outside work – have a story
People enjoy retelling stories about other people, so if you want people to talk about you and your expertise, you should create that story that will be passed on, and one of the best ways to do this is to pursue your passions beyond work with gusto, says Harvey-Palmer.
“If you've got the will to want to be recognised as an expert in your field, you need to have a story and like any story yours needs a beginning, middle and end and some creative licence,” he says.
“There are so many examples of people doing amazing things in a field that's completely unrelated, and people see them as an expert. If they've got a story of achievement then it's very easy to make a bridge – yeah, he's achieved. People can make the connection.”
10. Surprise, delight and follow up
Building genuine relationships is often about listening and giving feedback, and this gives you an opportunity to apply your expertise, Lucas says.
“Surprise and delight people. Be interested in them, question them openly and listen carefully to their answers. Let them walk away from your conversation feeling heard and understood.”
Following up is an important part of this process. “Getting an email the next day summarising the key points of your discussion is always a delight. It shows you've genuinely listened and care enough to reflect on the conversation. Even an SMS or a Facebook post if an email isn't possible works wonders,” she says.
“These in themselves breed referrals and recommendations from trusted sources. 'Talk to this person, they are an expert' is one of the best referrals a business can have.”