By Steve Rausch
Editor’s Note: ProInstaller columnist Steve (Steven William) Rausch, 67, recently passed away on June 8. He worked tirelessly for the benefit all segments of the floor covering industry as an independent consultant. His expertise, wit and wisdom will be greatly missed.
A leader (or thought leader) is a person or company who is recognized as an authority in a specialized field. Their expertise is sought after and rewarded. As a consultant and thought leader for our industry, I’m honored for the recognition, but I wonder why you (or your company) aren’t having the same results?
Searching for Leadership
Your customers are looking for experts – those who provide the exact type of service your company offers. So, why don’t you, or your company, become the expert? Perhaps the following reasons are inhibiting you:
You don’t see the value: Your customers don’t want to just buy products, they want to solve problems, improve living or working areas, make more-informed decisions, and of course, avoid making costly mistakes. They are searching for, and will prefer doing business with, the individual or company they believe can best help them solve these issues.
Your customers are also facing a lot of change anxiety and the new product options are forcing them to face uncertainty. They want to work with people or companies that will help them navigate through these challenges. Stepping up as an industry leader will make your life easier as you gain new business while keeping current customers better satisfied. Remember that your best new customers come as word-of-mouth referrals from existing customers.
Your customers don’t want to just buy products, they want to solve problems, improve living or working areas, make more-informed decisions, and of course, avoid making costly mistakes. They are searching for, and will prefer doing business with, the individual or company they believe can best help them solve these issues.
You don’t see yourself or your company as a leader: When I started, I didn’t see myself as a leader either. I didn’t have that as a goal for my business. I just started with the simple belief that I possessed knowledge that could be of value to the people who are interested in the tile and flooring business. My goal has been to bring awareness and to share my industry expertise through outbound marketing via various locations such as trade publication articles, LinkedIn articles, Facebook posts, social media forum sites, and other methods, including word-of-mouth. Thus far, these consistent efforts have worked beyond my wildest dreams, and they can for you as well.
If you think you don’t have what it takes to be a leader, then consider this: I have yet to meet anyone I can’t learn something from. There is a leader within all of us. Ask yourself the following:
- What is the biggest mistake you see customers making when specifying products or services?
- What are the most frequent problems you see customers facing today in your business?
- What suggestions do you have for them to resolve these issues?
- Who are some of the customers you have helped and how did you help them face their situations? You can do this by name, as reference or referral, or by using before and after images.
- What advice would you have for a customer considering the type of project you specialize in?
- What recent industry article do feel is important to share with your customers, and why?
- Why is price usually far down the list of importance for a project?
- Why is knowing and meeting industry standards and codes so vital in success of your projects?
Every person I have posed the above questions to has answers. Usually, they are great answers because they are based on personal experiences. As far as I’m concerned, that makes them all industry thought leaders with knowledge their customers would value. The question now is why haven’t you become a leader? Here are some reasons (excuses) I have heard:
You don’t know how: I know many thought leaders who only use LinkedIn or other social media to spread their ideas and knowledge. Others write blog posts, record podcasts, or make YouTube videos right from their cell phones daily. There is no right or wrong way to share your knowledge. You don’t need costly or fancy equipment — just start with whatever format works best for you and push forward. If you need help or advice, reach out to industry experts who will help you think through your ideas.
If you think you don’t have what it takes to be a leader, then consider this: I have yet to meet anyone I can’t learn something from. There is a leader within all of us.
You don’t have time: You have time to call, email, or meet with one person at a time, so just start that way. Understand that it takes the same amount of time to reach hundreds of folks via social media, blogs, YouTube, etc. Start by devoting one hour several times per week to sharing your knowledge. A few people who read or listen to your content will reach out to you. You will have easier and more successful relationships with others when they learn about you and the knowledge you offer before your first phone call, email, or meeting. The bar is now set higher than your competition, and as a result, customers will expect better service. You will discover you don’t waste nearly as much time selling as you are educating. The money will flow naturally.
What if you make a mistake? A mistake is something minor. These are easily fixed and happen to everyone. Push forward and learn how to avoid them in the future. If you share something that people disagree with, then that’s not a mistake, it’s just a difference of opinion. For example, my published works are read by thousands, including those who may disagree with me. My role is to prompt thinking and discussions, then use my knowledge and skills to resolve the problems encountered. Doesn’t that sound like the same job as you have?