Experts: Recognizing the Real McCoy

There are numerous so-called experts out there.  Ever wonder which ones are the real McCoys? 

Start by taking a look around at all the experts on social media, sales and networking.  Then ask yourself a few things.  Or better yet, ask them if you are considering developing a relationship:

  • What is your direct experience in helping clients grow their business as a result of your advice?  Ask them to quantify and qualify their response.
  • Who are some of your past and current clients?  What do you do for them?  May I speak to them and what would they say about you?
  • Where did you work before and learn and apply this knowledge/expertise?
  • How has your business grown and what revenue have you generated as a result of adhering to the advice you offer others?
  • Would you introduce me to some of your colleagues (and select which ones) so that I might bounce some ideas off of them and ask their advice?

Let me be clear.  I am not talking about LinkedIn connections of 500+ or the Top Linked, having Facebook fans/followers of 1000+.  Frankly, that’s not hard (nor is it often desirable).  Just ask any recruiter on LinkedIn.  Most have a huge number of connections.

For many of these self-anointed folks, the number of followers has seemingly given them an air of credibility.  And that’s my beef.  Often they can’t put any money where their mouth is. 

To be a true expert, you’ve got to do more than just market, point to the value of networking and use social media.  More than just blog, email, send newsletters about sales.  You need to demonstrate specifically how you’ve grown your business and helped others do the same.  And tell others how and by how much.

We can honestly say that our business has grown by x% as a result of certain strategies.  Tell you that we’ve led sessions to train and offer ongoing assistance to x individuals on the value of social media to grow business.  That we’ve worked at X corporations to gain expertise.  And that our network is tight and reliable—so much so that we’ve helped individuals and companies outside our project scope by introducing them to others that might provide valuable insight. 

That’s not to say there isn’t a role for people with intellectual or theoretical insights.  Nor is it fair to say that all those claiming to be experts are charlatans.  It’s just that you need to see if they have depth—of knowledge and experience–and have proven results. 

More than a handful of clients retaining us began by saying that XYZ Company(ies)—names you would recognize—gave them an assessment and analysis, but no actionable steps to rectify what was wrong with their sales operations or how they could create meaningful and fruitful business connections.

Within the last year, we’ve done extensive pro bono work for unemployed mid-and upper level professionals, leading sessions on using social media and networking.  On countless occasions, we’ve been approached by at least one or 2 persons saying, “Finally, advice that isn’t elementary or repetitive.”  Many companies offer basic social media training to laid off employees and/or these individuals have taken the time to learn some of this themselves.  What they seek is hands-on experiential advice and coaching.  They want more than the oft-quoted basics.  That, they say, separates us from the pack.

While we are flattered, it is a sad commentary on the information apparently available and provided by many.  Take an “expert” with a substantial following on Facebook and LinkedIn.  We asked to be introduced to a contact, to which they responded, “Oh, I don’t really know them,” prompting us to silently ask, “Why pretend to offer advice based on supposedly strong relationships?” 

We know why.  There is an assumption of thought leadership and expertise by having a large following, regardless of whether it is truly justified.

The point is this:  Beware of those self-appointed experts.  Many people seem to have the financial wherewithal and desire to teach and write about topics, but lack the real world experience and case histories to support their proclaimed expertise.  To many of them it’s theoretical.  They are not necessarily working day in and out to help companies grow.

Consider a business partner of ours, George Bradt.  He wrote 2 outstanding books on executive onboarding, with experience culled from working at companies such as Unilever, P&G, etc.  He can regale you with success stories since founding his own company.  When he talks, folks listen.  Why?  Because he’s been there, done that.  He can quantify and qualify his successes.

Who do you want giving you advice?  Someone who’s been in the trenches and can say from experience what works and what may prove to be challenging, or someone who blogs, posts, etc. on the topic, but hasn’t actually done it?  Someone whose network is a mile wide and an inch deep or someone with strong, meaningful connections?

I know who I choose to partner and work with on an ongoing basis at our company.  What about you? 

May your new year be full of real McCoys to help you prosper and grow.

2 Responses to “Experts: Recognizing the Real McCoy”

  1. George Bradt Says:

    Thanks for the shout out. In our case, building expertise in executive onboarding was a deliberate effort. Our firm, PrimeGenesis, is driven by the knowledge that moving into new jobs, roles, and circumstances are pivotal events for all involved and that a lot of people manage these situations poorly. Thus we have been committed to the pursuit of mastery in this field since 2002, continually striving to improve our own knowledge and skills so we can contribute to individuals, groups, and knowledge.

    • vsteinberg Says:

      Indeed, the best initiatives ARE deliberate. Part of the challenge with new employees is that they’re given the proverbial HR introduction and show to their desks. Today’s business environment doesn’t allow time to wander and hope to achieve the knowledge and familiarity necessary to ramp up and succeed quickly.

      We’ve noticed this in the sales sector, where the timeframe to ramp up is less than 6 months. A solid footing with necessary playbooks, introductions to “go to” people, etc. becomes even more critical. Regrettably, there are not enough enlightened corporations that recognize the value of this investment. Happily, this is changing as success stories emerge in different industries, business sectors and across employee levels.

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