If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve probably had a warm referral to an ideal client. You know how that happens. Someone vouches for you and introduces a prospective client. When you reach out, the lead already has respect for you.
But have you ever thought about why they have that respect? It’s because they already have respect for your mutual friend, as well as an existing relationship with them. And that mutual friend has suggested you can solve the lead’s problem, so they’re willing to talk to you. Immediately, your referred potential client wants your guidance. They let you take the lead, and they already trust you—you didn’t have to do anything.
This is what being an authority brings you:
- High trust from day one because you’re viewed as “the expert.”
- Lower friction during the sales process.
- A position as the only option the client initially wants to work with.
- Less price sensitivity to your services.
Now think about what would happen if many people thought you were an authority. Your market would talk about you. You’d get third-party endorsements. It would become far easier to get booked for speaking engagements or land guest posts on trusted platforms. Your case studies and proof points would then have an extra air of validity. When you’re an authority at scale, the benefits multiply.
To be viewed as an authority, you need four things:
- Proof of results
- Message recognition
- Third-party endorsements
- Influencer association
Today, I will detail how proof of results and message recognition will make you an authority and gain respect from your potential leads.
Proof of Results
You can get far in any market by being able to “talk the talk,” as we discussed in a recent blog on Attraction, the 3rd A in the 5-A Framework. Eventually, however, people are going to wonder if you also “walk the walk.” Do you have any proof of how awesome you are? Leads need you to do two things in the sales process: quantify the benefits of what they’re thinking of buying and mitigate the risk of purchasing from you. You need to prove, in other words, that your client will see a real benefit from their investment.
Here’s the good news. Unlike the stock market, where what happened yesterday or last year means nothing, a service firm’s past performance is a strong predictor of future performance. In other words, if you’ve done something before, people are likely to believe you can do it again.
Communicating that you are an authority is a continuous process that refers to pieces of proof in almost every conversation you have and the piece of content you create. Proof should be a thread you weave through everything you do.
Always ask yourself two questions:
- How am I proving that I can get my client measured benefits?
- How am I proving that I’m not a risk for my client’s investment?
And then answer those questions. Constantly.
What Does Proof Look Like?
Let me show you how this works. Imagine for a moment you know nothing about me—I’m just a random guy you found on the internet. I tell you that I think you should use my website proposal template on your next deal. Immediately, you’ll probably think, “Who is this guy? I’m not going to trust him with my financial future. What if I use this template and lose the deal I’m trying to land?” That line of thought would be completely logical. I haven’t presented any specific benefit to using my template, so it seems really risky.
Now let’s add a bit of proof to help mitigate risk: “I pitched over 960 website deals in ten years. Use my website proposal template on your next deal.” By adding a proof point, I’ve made my proposition seem a lot less risky. Now you’re probably thinking, “Well, he must have learned something from trying that many times. Maybe I’ll check it out—he might be an expert that can teach me something.”
That first proof point only helps mitigate the risk, so let’s look add another that quantifies the benefit: “I pitched over 960 website deals in ten years. Save hours of your time by using my website proposal template on your next deal—the same template I used to land a $22,864 project.”
Now, that’s compelling.
My proposition has gone from risky—possibly damaging—to credible and valuable. I’m providing the same resource as I was before, but now it has a much higher perceived value attached to it and a much lower risk level. This is the power of proof. That’s why proof should appear everywhere—from the first sentence you communicate to your prospective clients to the last.
Building Proof Points
Whenever I ask my clients to tell me about their proof points, they get humble—shy, even. And even brave and engaged clients end up sounding like Eeyore, the clinically depressed donkey from the Winnie the Pooh books. Stop it right now. I don’t care if you don’t have experience in the market you want to serve. This is about the experience you do have—because past performance helps predict future success.
I’m not suggesting you end up like Tigger—the tiger who has such a high view of himself that he sings a song about how wonderful he is. But you need to be more like him than you may be comfortable with. There’s no getting around it—you need to prove you’re great. To do so, it can help to sit down and brainstorm some proof points.
My good friend and branding expert extraordinaire, Re Perez of Branding for the People, taught me to unpack proof points in five distinct buckets:
- Functional. What kind of experience do you have?
- Social. What good have you done? How have you helped others?
- Economic. What money or time can you make or save?
- Credentials. What certifications, awards, or degrees do you have?
- What case studies, big clients, or reviews do you have?
Try to start with at least three to seven proof points within each category.
Making Proof Points Work for You
A good place to start utilizing your proof points is your website’s “About” page. Try adding at least three of your proof points into the content you already have. Try to include at least two number-based proof points. When people scan content, they’re often drawn to numbers first, even if they don’t end up reading anything else.
Here’s the critical thing to remember, whether you’re writing a case study or testimonial: every project has proof points, so use them! Your customer story will be much more compelling when it’s packed with proof.
You may think you need to constantly come up with new material and messaging, so let me be clear: you don’t. You simply need to get your main message recognized. Here’s the truth: most of \your audience isn’t paying attention to you. I mean, are you really paying attention to everyone you follow? Do you read every email that comes into your inbox with a highlighter, ready to take notes and catalog the information? Of course not. You scan. You review. You tune out. You go to the restroom. You get distracted.
You may need to repeat your message seven times or more to each person before it’s finally heard. Once you identify the top three problems you solve and have a useful solution for each, stop adding to your service offering. Instead, get out there and repeat that message over and over until you tire of it. Yes, you can slowly evolve within your platform, but once you find something that works within your market, stay the course.
We still have two more points to discuss for you to be viewed as an authority by your potential leads. Be sure to join me next time as we dive into third-party endorsements and influencer association topics. In the meantime, I’d like to invite you to check out my new book, Get Rich in the Deep End, where I dive deep into each of the 5-A’s.