I’ve been around the block a few times so I’ve got a rich and varied experience to call upon and I’m not alone, I know plenty of people who have earned their stripes in more than one specialism. However, when you offer too wide a breadth of information people have doubts. It doesn’t matter how much hands-on experience you’ve got, if you claim to know too much people see you as a jill-of-all-trades. That’s one reason it’s really important to have a niche – because it classifies you as a specialist.
When you’ve identified your niche you need to have credibility and this is not the easiest thing to establish. When I was working with a group of trainers we used a model for sales training that had steps:
Step 1 – create rapport – get the client to show some sign that they feel comfortable with you and are willing to at least listen to what you have to say.
Step 2 – establish your credibility. If the client doesn’t know anything about your company, product, service you need to ensure they feel they can trust your organisation and what it offers. This can include all kinds of things from any awards you’ve won, to testimonials from other clients (particularly ones that the new client already knows or knows of), case studies, discussion of how you go about ensuring your client gets what they want, etc. Until the client accepts that they can trust you to deliver what you promise, there is not point in moving on to steps 3, 4 and 5 – you’ll be wasting your time.
Of course, if you’re a well known name it’s easy – if you work for Dyson, Virgin, British Airways, Ford Motor Company, or any other big name, your potential client will already have established perceptions of what kind of company you are. However, it’s wise to check what these are – some people have had bad experiences with a particular organisation and any future dealings with that company will be affected by that. It may be that you have to address historic issues before you can move on.
How to improve your credibility
- Positive press coverage is always good – but it will need to be in the places your target audience are looking. So, whilst national press is nice, industry journals are probably just as good, if not better. It’s often easier to get an article published in a professional magazine than in the national dailies – as long as it has value and isn’t just an ‘aren’t we wonderful’ piece.
- Be visible – people need to know you exist so being active in your local business community (if your clients are local) or in the professional organisations your target audience attends.
- Share what you know freely – today’s online opportunities are a fantastic way to be seen as an expert. Tweet tips, answer questions on a Facebook Page, join LinkedIn groups where your target audience are found and offer your advice in the forums when people have challenges.
- Maintain connections you already have – if you don’t stay in touch people forget you exist. This is especially true when you consider the amount of information, sales material and offers that land in your information – and the ease of finding information on the internet.
The challenge with all of this is that it takes time – but if you want the response when you meet people to be ‘Oh yes, I’ve heard lots of good things about you’ it’s not something you can put off without losing a substantial amount of potential business.