“An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgments simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore.” – Edward de Bono (born May, 1933)
Think of something you accomplished in your work that made you feel proud of yourself, something you know made an impact. Maybe you solved a big problem for a client…how many people know about it other than your work team, your client, and maybe your spouse? For the most part, accomplishing things and creating results are just part of the job. Even if you achieve something amazing, it’s rarely known outside of a small circle of people behind the scenes. Your achievement does nothing to generate the perception in your target market that you have active, applicable expertise.
Yet you know you want to be perceived as having credibility and expertise. So how can you portray that? One way is to ask yourself, “What decisions do my target market face?”
Decision-making is one of the main reasons people seek expert advice. They need help to contextualize and prioritize information so they can make better decisions. Most everyone has figured out that the “information age” only gave us a piece of the success puzzle. We thought we were thirsty for more and more information, but now that we are drowning in it, we need help in swimming through the muddy rapids. “Who can help me, and help me now?!”
If you want people to see you as the expert they need, then throw them a lifeline! Give them a shortcut—show them what to focus on and what can be completely and safely ignored. They can’t see it. They haven’t been down this particular stretch before. They are exhausted from worrying about what they should do before they drown. When you (the expert) tell them what they can let go of worrying about, right there they feel like a burden is lifted and that there’s hope. Of course you have to give them a good reason or justification, but they are eager for your shortcuts.
One less thing to worry about can drastically increase a person’s enthusiasm and productivity. When you give good shortcuts, you will be immensely appreciated. Be sure you get the credit.
So how do you find these lifeline shortcuts? Your experience is key, of course, but you can also expand how you characterize define your experience. For example, while your experience might include a solution you created for a similar customer last year, it might also include the lessons you learned from your experience selling seed packs door-to-door as a teen. Both experiences could be equally relevant.
Research is another way to build your expertise. Read and learn about others’ discoveries. Finding lifeline shortcuts can also be as simple as noting mistakes to avoid. You can spot mistakes that commonly cost people time and money, and when you expose these, your expertise has tons of value. Having extra time is always an outcome people appreciate When you help them find ways to stop doing needlessly, to skip over, to ignore, you start making their lives easier. They may think of you as not just the expert, but as their hero!
According to David Shenk, author of Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut, “Now that we find ourselves with quick, cheap, easy access to virtually unlimited data, productivity no longer hinges on acquiring information but on the ability to synthesize it…less information can mean more intelligence and wisdom.” See? The act of creating “Less information” is what I mean by shortcuts—these are what are missing and desperately wanted and needed.
Your first step is to OWN your expertise. Just because the solution to certain problems seems easy and obvious for you does not mean you should take that for granted. Stop minimizing your expertise. No matter how shallow or deep you think your expertise is–own it. Say it out loud. For example, go ahead and say out loud what you would most like to be known for. “I am a writer.” “I am a small business coach.” “I am a motivational speaker.” Own it and declare it!
And now you know how to share in a way that your target audience sees you, perceives you, and trusts you as an expert: give them shortcuts, and make sure you get the credit.
Bonus hint: The surest route to instant credibility is to become “the one who wrote the book on____.” Think about starting to own, declare and share how you are an expert and thought leader through writing a book. Your effectiveness as a leader is directly related to your perceived authority as an expert in your field. Do not underestimate your power to reach others, to make a difference and help more people than you ever imagined possible.