Generalists Lose Credibility By Being the Master of None: The Story of the Bobcat IT Guy
No one wants to hire a generalist who does “a little of this, a little of that” (and if they do, they certainly aren’t prepared to pay a premium for them). People want an expert, someone who understands the subtle nuisances of their problem. This is where the Bobcat IT guy went terribly wrong.
It was your typical networking breakfast where entrepreneurs gathered to build reciprocal referral relationships. The format included giving your 30-second elevator pitch to make it easier for the group to pass along relevant sales leads. That is when I met the Bobcat IT guy.
He shuffled to the front of the room where he introduced himself and announced to the group that he was an IT consultant who specialized in helping small businesses troubleshoot their network problems. Then he added, “I also operate a Bobcat on the side.” What? Are you kidding me?
The image of a computer nerd operating heavy machinery anywhere near my house gave me chills and there was no way I was letting a roughneck driver try to finesse my finicky hard drive that was on the cusp of failing. Either way you looked at it, Bobcat IT guy was the wrong choice!
This is exactly what we do when we profess ourselves to be ‘experts’ in everything. The definition of an expert is “a person who has comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.” You don’t develop comprehensive knowledge or skill doing something part-time.
Focus on a Specific Niche – Choose a specific skill, industry and/or problem to address. For example, your skill may be social media consultant for the music industry and the problem you solve is helping new artists build an audience.
Draw on Diverse Your Background – Think of your personal background and hobbies as bonuses for your customers. It’s not what you would necessarily put forward at a first meeting, but instead introduce as the relationship develops.
Condense Your Focus to a Soundbite – Make your focus specific and memorable, something someone else could easily remember and repeat if they were recommending you to a friend. “You should talk to so-and-so – she’s an early childhood language specialist.”
Stay on Message – Pick a focus and stick with it. Don’t be one type of expert one day and a different expert the next. That’s just as damaging as pulling a Bobcat IT guy. Part of building trust with your potential customers is showing that you are in it for the long-term.
Answer the Question: Why You? – Share how you acquired your knowledge, where you honed your skill and how you continue to develop your expertise on an ongoing basis. Declaring your expertise doesn’t always make it so – give them a reason to trust that what you are saying is true.