In our hyper-connected world, how you package yourself is critical; we all want to be seen as the expert at what we do. After all, each of us is selling something we want customers to buy — or buy into. However, achieving the status of ‘guru’, or passionate expert, is often elusive. As a student of life, I wanted to share five lessons I’ve learned.
How you package yourself is directly related to your ability to garner trust and translate this into customer conversions. I often refer to this as a ‘personal brand’, or a means to tie all of your skills, knowledge, persona and intellectual property into a customer-facing package. In other words, it’s how your customer would react if you were a gift.
Would they have a genuine smile of pleasant surprise, or would they wrinkle their nose while smiling thinly in your general direction?
Lesson #1: Remember where you are at all times.
Have you ever overheard a conversation where you walked away stunned someone would say such things about another person? “I would never be that rude,” you probably thought.
There are ears everywhere, and your personal brand does not end with fancy websites or eloquent elevator pitches. It extends into delivery of your products and offerings as well as the on-going commitment to your customers’ satisfaction. Each transaction could be considered a form of deposit or withdrawal in your ‘reputation’ account. More importantly, others are making deposits and withdrawals with and without your knowledge all of the time.
With so many ways in which to interact with your customers, what you say is as important as the ways in which you choose to interact. For instance, I’ve chosen this format to be my primary means of communicating my own personal brand to the world. On the flip side, one advertising executive managed to completely wreck a relationship with FedEx, worth millions of dollars, and his own personal brand in less than 140 characters on Twitter.
How and what you say are critically important. Remember where you are all times.
Lesson #2: Being a guru isn’t voodoo.
Some have called me a technology guru, MPS guru or even a change guru. So how did I earn this kind of respect from others?
There are those who might argue that being a guru, or passionate expert, is like putting on your clothes; you either have the ‘secret sauce’ or you don’t. I tend to disagree, and hold with the belief that being a guru isn’t voodoo.
Instead, it relates directly to your ability to generate trust. Many ask why I offer so much content for free, while others choose to charge for it. It’s a matter of personal taste and objectives. My hope is that in doing so, you see I am focused on giving more than receiving. I enjoy sharing my view of things with you, and always enjoy learning about your view of the world as well.
Becoming a guru really takes persistence and commitment to something you are passionate about. You can become an expert at things you are not necessarily passionate about. But when you introduce passion to commitment, you have an unstoppable force.
It certainly isn’t magic, but it does take persistence.
Lesson #3: Owning your heart is where it starts.
We are living in the ‘on-demand society’, lulled into a belief we can achieve anything with limited resources and finite amounts of time. I promote the ideal of dreaming big and winning bigger. However, I’ve had to learn that it is in the alignment of who we are and what we love with our choices which make us ho-hum achievers or wildly successful winners!
I recently had a great opportunity to reacquaint myself with clarity, in a rather painful way. I didn’t embrace who I was and what I loved. More importantly, I didn’t stay clear as to what my actions said about me in the eyes of my colleagues’ and customers’ eyes.
I often railed against being categorized as “the propeller head” and bristled at being just the “IT guy”. In my quest to elevate myself above what I thought to be a limiting personal brand, I missed two key points:
- Just because I can sell doesn’t mean I’ve earned anyone’s trust as a sales guru.
- In continuing to give and help others, I had already elevated myself above the brand of “just IT guy”.
You see, clarity isn’t an end state in the human condition. It is actually a frame of mind that is rather easy to fall out of. But before you can get clear on where you are and need to go, owning your heart is where it starts.
Lesson #4: Use your baggage to build your ‘guru gravitas’.
Everyone has baggage, a reputation that’s been sullied by missteps and mistakes.
Being married to my beautiful Wife for almost 15 years, I can assure you our reputation follows us throughout our lives. I’ve made lots of dumb mistakes in our marriage, but perhaps one of the worst was the first Mother’s Day after our daughter was born. I made the rookie mistake of thinking Mother’s Day was only for my Mother. So I didn’t buy my Wife a Mother’s Day present, and let me just tell you that I’m lucky she sees fit to still introduce me as her husband!
Maybe you’ve entertained dreams of running away to a far away country with lots of beaches and crystal blue waters, but for most of us this just isn’t a reality. When I use to tell a friend about that dream he used to reply, “The only problem is that you take yourself with you.”
Sure enough, on your way to becoming a guru you will make mistakes. In fact, I believe this makes a stronger and more passionate expert. Your customer and your community won’t like that you make mistakes, but owning them and moving to remedial action is essential to you and your reputation surviving intact. In fact, I’ve found the best ways to accelerate your status as a guru in your customer’s eyes is to humbly admit you make mistakes.
To some, sure. However, the reason customers want to pay you for your help is because of your knowledge. This is comprised as much of what to do right as what not to do wrong. While you carry your baggage with you everywhere, embracing the mistakes (and lessons learned) as part of your character surely adds to your ‘guru gravitas’.
Lesson #5: You’re never done!
The key thing I want you to take away from this is that you need to be a guru in every aspect of your life. Not only is it important for your profession, but it’s important for you as a person.
The word ‘guru’ might be just a word without a lot of weight, or it can take on a deeper meaning for you.
Certain words may not be important to some because only shades of what these words represent have been experienced. For those who have experienced the unconditional love of a child, or the deeper layers of love an actively engaged marriage reveals, you instantly associate the word love with how powerful a force it can be in your own life.
As you go through life, don’t settle for the definition of ‘guru’ as an actively engaged industry expert. Instead look around and find areas in your life where gurus are needed. Maybe it’s being a great father or mother, becoming an excellent husband or wife or being a volunteer at your local community center.
While the glory of the quest sometimes overshadows its purpose, don’t become complacent in your quest to become the ‘guru’. Achieving this will always find you in demand, because the world always needs a guru like you.