In every industry, profession or market place you will find them: the ‘go-to’ person that has managed to be at the centre of everything.
They have their ear to the ground, are connected and able to affect change. They are known as the thought leaders, the fixers and the deal closers – they ultimately hold a reputation of authority.
Being the go-to is a privileged position that can harness great influence. Everyone wants to work with or buy from the person who has reputation, credibility and expertise. This often creates an increase in demand, which leads to choice. They get to choose who they want to work with as opposed to taking on all customers or projects out of necessity.
When demand increases, so do rates. Instead of competing on price like everyone else, the expert can command higher fees.
But how do you become this person and how do you become them without being used by others?
It is not enough to know your stuff; people need to know you know your stuff. Essentially almost all business decisions are based on confidence, and the most effective way to establish confidence is to demonstrate your expertise regularly.
“Almost all business decisions are based on confidence”
Develop thought leadership
If expertise is about knowledge, then thought leadership is about ideas. Tap into your talents, passion and experiences to consistently answer the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.
Think about how you can add value to your network and develop your thought leadership. Creating content through your website or blog and your social networks is a good place to start, but also consider developing your authority through public speaking, video, write a book or even start your own podcast.
Never stop learning
This one almost goes without saying and is, in fact, embedded in every strategy I discuss in this article.
The best way to stay an expert is to always keep an open mind and absorb new information. Read books and blogs, keep skills up to date, keep on top of new trends. Every field is changing, some more rapidly than others. Experts always keep their finger on the pulse and understand where their industry is heading.
The more you learn, the more you fill your professional toolbox.
Consider a niche
Instead of trying to please every man and his dog, focus your efforts on a smaller specialist area of your industry. This approach will help focus your marketing and you are more likely to get noticed and increase rates.
Connect, connect, connect
Go-to people commit energy to developing their network. Most people don’t prioritise networking at all. It’s an afterthought or borne out of necessity when work dries up.
Start to create small habits instead. Yes, it takes discipline, but it yields great results. Make sure that you’re regularly forming new connections and keeping in touch with established connections. You should also be creating regular value by adding web content and social media status updates that provoke engagement, new conversations and new opportunities.
Connecting others increases your credibility in both of their eyes and often results in reciprocation when you most need it.
Keep your eyes and ears open
Go-to people are better opportunists. You’ll need to develop your ability to observe and connect the dots. Ask who’s working on what projects, what angles might not have been considered and how you would add value to said projects.
Invite other influencers for lunch or a coffee and be interested, ask questions and – more importantly – listen.
Remember, opportunity is more likely to find you if you are looking for it in the first place.
Perceive and predict
Keeping your ear to the ground is one thing, but you’ll need to develop an ability to foresee possible issues that need solutions. It could be issues with your project, your partners or customers.
Being armed with a potential solution before you’re even approached for advice is very powerful, so pay attention.
Build your profile
Other people’s positive perception of you is powerful. If you are mentioned in the right circles, you will automatically be someone desirable to know, work with and seek out for help and advice.
So proactively network, encourage media interviews, speak at events, cultivate a positive reputation.
Focus on influencers
The late Jim Rohn said, ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with’. Who are those five people for you?
If you want to up your game, surrounding yourself with people who elevate you is a really good idea. Influence is (almost) contagious. By spending time with people who are experts in your field, you will further develop your knowledge.
“Think about who already has great profile in your industry and think about how you can develop a relationship with them”
You’ll benefit from credibility by association, the simple premise that we are known by the company we keep. Think about who already has great profile in your industry or niche and think about how you can develop a relationship with them.
Become a mentor
Nothing helps cement knowledge as effectively as sharing it and there’s no shortage of young professionals looking for mentorship. When you see a rising star in your field, take them under your wing. Guide them, share your experiences with them and connect with them.
At the same time, as above, keep an open mind. In my experience, you will learn as much from a mentee than you will teach. You’ll gain new perspectives about your industry and other powerful insights if you’re open to it.
Build social proof
A good reputation opens doors or attracts support, whereas a bad one creates obstacles and causes those same doors to slam in your face. A positive testimonial is 12 times more likely to be trusted over your own marketing materials, yet most people don’t invite them.
In an age of due diligence, people are doing their research – encourage your happiest customers to endorse you.
Ultimately, the powerful chemistry is in the mixing of all these things. When your social proof praises the characteristics of an influencer and is in turn from other respected leaders, you create more confidence in your ability to deliver.
Warren Cass is a speaker and the author of Influence.