I love Toastmasters. If you want to learn to speak in public, there isn’t a better place to start. You only get better at speaking in public by speaking in public. While I was in the program, I saw some amazing transformations. You would know two other members of this club: Lewis Howes and Sarah Storer.
What I didn’t like was the name of the first level of achievement. The words “competent communicator” always struck me as not being the right name for the achievement, even if accurate. Though competent comes before excellence, no one should aim to be competent, especially not someone who works in sales.
On a recent interview, I was asked to share a secret to success in sales (even though there are no secrets, everything being well-known and documented, and the real differentiator being the willingness to do what most others refuse to do). Even though it isn’t a secret, there isn’t much conversation about the need to become an expert. Being competent isn’t a competitive advantage, but being an expert surely is.
When you say the word expert, many people believe that they need to be an expert in their business. It is true that you need to study and become an expert in your industry. You also need to know everything that you do different, why you deviate from your competitors, and how those differences make a difference. All of this is good and necessary.
Others believe the word expert means they need to be an expert in their client’s businesses, a task that can prove more difficult. You have to work hard to learn how your client’s think about their businesses, but good questions can help you learn from all the contacts you meet with while you are selling. You can bend the learning curve in your direction if you do the work.
Where you need to be an expert is on the borderline where your business and your client’s business come together. The real expertise is knowing enough about your business and your client’s business to be able to provide advice worth taking. You have to understand why your client should change, and how they should change, while also possessing the experience of knowing how to help them produce the better future they are capable of achieving with your help.
Competency is merely a milestone on the way to expert.
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