BE The Expert In The Room

 
BE The Expert In The Room

One member, one profession, this automatically makes you the expert in your group, doesn’t it? Well actually, no.

Being there is one thing. Actively being there is something else. To build trust in your fellow group members you need to develop your reputation as an expert.

Remember most people within your group have contact spheres that include other companies doing what you do and essentially, although they are not in the room, you are competing against those contacts every time you speak to that person. One advantage is the fact they are not in the room, giving you the opportunity to develop your relationship with the member without competition.

There are many ways of doing this. Delivering knowledgeable and professional one minute presentations helps build the foundation, but there are other ways you can enhance your reputation.

Some networking group members I have known have developed a ‘tip of the week’ that they build into their one minute presentations. For example, an insurance broker might remind you that as Christmas is coming up it would be sensible to check your insurance policy covers new gifts to be given or received, or a mechanic might suggest that as mornings get colder it is good to get the battery in your car checked. Simple, practical tips that your fellow Chapter members can use, outside the meeting that will help them to drop your name into conversation.

Building your expert persona takes time. One of the most effective ways it will grow is by fellow members giving you good Raps in the meeting.

So, how do you get good Raps? Easy, do a good job!

But this doesn’t mean the Raps have to be just from personal experience of your fellow members. It may have been that you have worked for someone else referred to you by a member. Once the job is complete remember to thank the referrer. This should stimulate them to contact their contact and find out if the job was done well. Don’t be surprised if the next week you get a glowing testimonial from the referrer. This shows two things. Firstly, you are the expert and do a good job, and secondly, the referrer is happy they referred you. Both are very powerful messages.

Often it is hard to be in a room full of experts. There is nothing worse than attending a meeting of people in the same industry who stand around playing the one-upmanship game. However, at your networking group it is completely different. You are in a room full of experts in their field, who you know and trust and who you know you can refer to your contacts. Being surrounded by experts who can cover and help with most aspects of life is one of the benefits of belonging to a networking group.

I once had a customer who knew of my involvement in networking. He had even been a guest at a meeting. He used to describe me as ‘the man that knows people’ because he knew that if he called me to ask if I knew a plumber, I could recommend one instantly. Having experts up your sleeve also enhances your reputation with your contacts and helping to solve other people’s problems is a very satisfying activity.

Sadly, some members loose the distinction between a friendly chat, with a little free advice to guide them, and a full blown consultation where their problem is solved for free.

The professions falling victim to this the most are lawyers and accountants, but other professions, such as painters and builders, will often be asked questions about the detailed way to do a task. Ultimately you need to control your spirit of giving and the level to which free advice is given or you will be making a rod for your own back and you will damage the professional aspect of your relationship with the other member.

It is all very well to have a brief chat to outline a problem and a solution, but you need to remind the other party that this is how you make a living. One of the easiest ways is to offer to make an appointment to discuss it further in a more formal setting, rather than here in public. That indicates to the other member two things. One, you take their issue seriously and two, you are going to charge them for further advice, especially when you remind them that the first half an hour is free to your fellow group members.

Being seen as approachable and open with sensible advice is vital as a way of making yourself referable. You don’t want to be seen as the easy mark for free advice, neither do you want to be aloof and seen as the person who when asked a question makes an appointment every time. You need to get the balance right. If you need to learn how to do this, arrange a recon with your lawyer or accountant. They get it everywhere not just at the group, and most of them will have developed firm and fair ways of dealing with requests for extended free advice.

Giving away free samples and advice is a proven marketing technique and if you give the information in short, measured and most of all controlled ways, you will be seen, not only as the (insert your profession) in the group but as the expert. One is a given and comes with your membership, the other earned and is priceless.

Module Actions
Create powerful presentations to prove your 'expert' status
Formulate a 'We need to discuss this professionally' phrase you can use for when a little advice becomes free work