10 Essential Tools to Build Your Authority

Yesterday, I spoke to a group of 26 CEOs—businesses as small as $1-million in annual revenue, up to $1-billion. One of the CEOs recently bought another business whose strategy was to serve their ideal clients in all the small, out of the way places that the big competitors wouldn’t bother to go. Great strategy, just one problem he shared…

The Internet.

The Internet brought the big competitors to those out of the way places. He was now commoditized. In the group, he wasn’t the only one. Nearly everyone in the room was facing more competition now than ever before.

Maybe you are too.

It’s a real problem and it has two serious consequences that it brings:

  1. Competition from entirely new players (often bringing apples to oranges comparisons, that put you at a disadvantage).

  2. Serious downward pressure on fees.

In most professional service businesses, you don’t have 80% margins to begin with, so the squeeze can be significant and painful.

The Only Way Out is UP: Using Authority to Escape Commodity Hell

The only real way to escape is to elevate yourself and get above the fray. You’ve got to become THE authority that your market turns to. There are “tools of the trade” for creating authority positioning, that you’ll want to build into your marketing and your business.

Here’s the list, explained…

1. Decision.

You’ve got to start somewhere and in our work with businesses that are going from “unknown” to authority, the very first and most important tool is the decision to create your authority position.

Yes, it’s a decision.

Authority is claimed, not bestowed. So claim it. Certainly, you need to have the requisite expertise to back it up, but in my experience, most business owners have knowledge and expertise in spades.

They just don’t leverage it in a systematic way to create the authority that will attract better clients and bigger fees.

2. Worldview.

Every professional I’ve ever met had very clear and specific ideas about how his or her profession should be practiced. It’s your “this is how we do it here” opinion.

Stop keeping it a secret. Share it with your prospects, clients, and partners. There’s a reason you do it the way you do it…because in your mind it’s the optimal way to deliver your service.

Why on Earth would you keep that a secret?

3. Confidence.

I won’t lie to you, it takes confidence to step out and claim your authority, publicly.

The good news…confidence is a developed capability. It’s easy to grow your confidence daily with a few simple practices.

OK, we got the “soft skills” out of the way. Let’s get practical...

4. Naming to Create Authority

Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach says “He who names the game, wins the game.” When you begin to name the things you do for clients you begin to create a new, authoritative, and valuable way to describe the value you deliver.

Naming is one outward signal of your worldview. In fact, if you hang around here long enough, you’ll find we have an “Unstoppable CEO language.”

Here’s a sample…

  • Referral Kit™

  • The Value Conversation™

  • The Reverse Prospecting Advantage

  • The Ultimate High-Ticket Sales Process

  • The Exponential Network Strategy

  • The Authority Formula

For our clients, each of these names encapsulates a proprietary process and our worldview in that area of our practice. When your prospects start using your language to describe what they want to accomplish, you know you’ve established authority in the market.

5. Authority Selling

Let me ask you a question: Do you consider yourself a natural salesperson? Are you more comfortable with the delivery of your expertise, than the selling of it?

Most of the successful people we work with would answer “yes” to both questions.

The problem is that most of the advice you’ll find on sales improvement requires you to use scripts and techniques that rely on superior sales skills. That’s a recipe for failure. If you’re not comfortable, you won’t use them.

Better to build a sales process based on authority selling. Here are the four essential elements of an authority selling system:

  1. Pre-sales education: Before you’re in a selling situation with a prospect, they’re educated on the problem they face, the consequences of the problem, and on the possible solutions.

  2. A Conversion Window: Getting prospects to move is always hard. The last thing you want to be is the “just checking in guy.” (I hate those calls and you hate making them.) Your Conversion Window gives prospects a compelling reason to take the next step now, without you having to pressure, cajole, or wrestle them to the ground.

  3. Your Out-front Criteria: I’m going to go out on a limb and say, there are some prospects that just aren’t a fit for you. And, there are some who are IDEAL. Say so, “out-front.” You’ll save yourself a ton of time, you’ll remove much of the temptation of accepting a client that doesn’t fit, and your IDEAL Clients will say “that’s for me.”

  4. Your Disqualification Filter: Sales is primarily a disqualification process. You’re really searching for the very best, most ideal, perfect-fit clients. If you build a real system (based on authority) to attract great clients, you’ll have an abundance of opportunity. So, set up a filter—an application, fee for initial meeting, limited availability (there are a dozen ways to do this, get one)—to put a small speed bump right before your sales meeting. Great prospects will gladly go over it, and you’ll have the experience of only talking to excited, motivate soon-to-be clients.

6. Your Service Delivery System

This is a powerful and under-used authority-building strategy. And, the most iconic story of a delivery system used to create authority position in the market is all about BEER!

Specifically, the Schlitz Beer marketing created by Claude Hopkins in the early 1900s.

Schlitz was struggling as the #8 brewer in the country. Every beer at the time was marketed as “pure,” which meant simply saying your beer was pure didn’t have any impact on sales (note: this reality exists in most industries…everybody says the same thing…it still doesn’t work).

In comes Hopkins, hired to create a new ad campaign for the beer. He asks for a tour of the brewery and immediately sees the solution. Make the process of purification visible to the market. Sure, it’s the same process used in every other brewery, but if you’re the only one telling the story, you own it.

 Instead of simply saying Schlitz was the purest beer, he demonstrated why it was the purest by showing the process.

Instead of simply saying Schlitz was the purest beer, he demonstrated why it was the purest by showing the process.

Instead of simply saying Schlitz was the purest beer, he demonstrated why it was the purest by showing the process.

Schlitz went from #8 in market share to #1. Reveal your process.

7. The Fine Art of Showing Up

We give attention to the people who show up in our lives consistently and frequently. Attention is the first and necessary ingredient of authority.

Start showing up in your prospect’s world with something new, useful, valuable using publishing as your medium of authority. (When you publish i.e. speak to many at once, we assume you’re authoritative.)

Show up and be valuable at least monthly (ideally more often).

8. Your Calendar

If you can meet with a prospect anytime the prospect wants the meeting, you’re not an authority. You’re desperate for business.

Control your availability through the calendar. Not only will you be more productive, you’ll have a less chaotic schedule, and you’ll create both the perception and the reality that your time is valuable.

The calendar gives you the ability to subtly apply scarcity and urgency in a very real and believable way.

9. Your Priorities

I see this with business owners that aren’t crystal clear on their priorities…they can get easily swayed into commitments that destroy their authority positioning.

Conversely, because they don’t have clear priorities (one of which being “build authority”), the actions needed to achieve the positioning you want never get done. I know these seem really obvious, but it trips up enough people that it’s worth making it conscious.

10. Your Associations

That brings us to #10…your associations. Or put another way, the crowd you hang out with. An attorney friend once told me, “You are who you travel with.”

And your market will see you as a peer with the people you associate with. Associate with other well-regarded authorities in your market. Not only will it elevate your positioning, it will expand your thinking and give you opportunities to interact with smart people, doing big things.

On the other hand, if you’re always “business visible” with small-time players you’ll be put in that category.

Maybe that’s a sad statement on human nature, but it’s also true. Work with human nature, not against it.

The Key to Creating Authority

Be intentional. You’ve now got the 10 tools of authority, but to bring it into reality, you must be intentional about the process.

Want to organize your thinking and your action? Attend our next free training session on developing your authority position.

Three ways to set your fees

I have to tell you…

Getting the “market rate” when you’re a professional sucks.

There, I said it. (You know you’ve thought it.)

The problem is the “market” is happy to settle.

The “market” is filled with firms who know no other way of getting clients, other than to be the cheapest.

So, they drive down the “market rates.”

It’s the financial advisor willing to do all the planning without a fee, just the commission…

The attorney, so desperate for clients, he’ll work for half what he should…

The CPA, or engineer, or architect, who BELIEVES that average rates are good guides.

Today, I’m going to show you three ways to come up with your fees. Each of them superior to pegging yourself at “average.”

So Why are Premium Rates So Important?

Why all the fuss…?

Aside from the obvious, you charge more, you make more (isn’t that reason enough?), there are three reasons you NEED to be charging higher prices.

1. You’ll attract better clients. Clients that flock to you for a low price, will leave you when the next guy drops a dollar lower. Higher prices force your clients to choose you for reasons other than money…reasons that will keep them with you longer.

2. You can spend more to get clients. Low fees are usually driven by desperation. I remember back in the engineering world, firm owners actually taking work at break even or a small loss, “just to keep people working.”   
I get what they were hoping to do, but the minute you start down that road, you strip your ability to spend to attract new clients. The winner is the one who can spend the most to get a new client—and still be profitable.

3. You can invest in high-end experiences. Whether that means spending to get the brightest, most innovative professionals to come to your firm, or having the big luxurious office that your clients expect, or delivering a higher level of service…  

Premium experiences require premium investment. You’ll need the added profit.

How to Set Higher Fees

There are three methods you can use to set your fees. All three work. Just pick one…

The Dartboard Method for Raising Fees

This one is my preferred method (really). I first heard this from Sean D’Souza.

It works like this:

1. Get a dartboard and darts.
2. Write a bunch of fees that make you happy on slips of paper.
3. Tape the slips to the dartboard.
4. Throw a dart.

The point of the exercise is to get you to make a decision.

Let’s say you’re currently charging $150 an hour and you’d really like to get to $300. You don’t know if you should go to $200 or $250 or $285 or all the way to $300 first.

Put them all on the dartboard. Throw the dart. The dart removes the fear and uncertainty around choosing the “perfect number.”

There isn’t one.

Get a number. The specific number matters a lot less than you think.

How to Justify Charging More with The Value Method

Value-based pricing has been around forever. It’s an excellent way to get a lot higher fees, but requires you to do a little detective work with your future client.

You need to understand exactly what they’re getting (value) from working with you. What’s their return on investment. Often in professional services this can be difficult to uncover, but it’s there.

Once you have your fee, set your fee at a fraction of the value your client is receiving (get them to tell you what that value is).

Your fee might be anywhere from half to 1/10th the value they receive. Or, from the client’s perspective, they’re getting 2-times to 10-times more return, then the investment their making with you.

If you’re billing by the hour, this can be a quick way to “justify” your way to higher fees.

Using The “Market Multiplier” to Triple Your Fees

The third method is the “Market Multiplier”. This one requires no special equipment…just multiply the average market rate by any number.

2, 3, 4, 10…whatever.

I used this approach when running my first company to go from “average” to triple the market rate overnight.

Now, the next trick is getting clients, and prospective clients to pay your higher fees.

Why we turn away clients, and why you should too

There’s so much noise out there about “always be closing” and so many people who beat their chest, bragging about high close rates as if, closing the prospect was the only positive outcome.

We take a different approach.

Today, we turned away a $5+ thousand-dollar client, who was ready to buy.

But here’s the thing…

We weren’t the right fit for him, right now.

We will be in a year. But if we take him today, we know he wouldn’t be as successful as we want.

And still…he was ready to send money.

For a lot of businesses, that’s hard to walk away from.

But taking a wrong-fit client is short-term gain, for long-term pain.

We take the definition of the word “client” very seriously…

“One that is under the protection of another.”

In other words, we have a duty to guide the business owners who come seeking our help to the right solution.

Often that means working with us.

Sometimes, it means sending them somewhere else for help…even when doing so costs us in the short term.

The long-term accrual of trust and authority is priceless.

I have no idea if, as you read this, you need help attracting clients or if you’re even a fit for what we do.

If you are good at turning prospects into clients, but aren’t seeing enough prospects to hit your goals, then, it *might* make sense to talk.

We have VERY FEW remaining openings to talk next week. Grab yours here…


Deming was right!


W. Edwards Deming--the American who is credited with rebuilding Japanese industry after World War II--famously said "If you can't describe what you're doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing." I'll bet you have a process for paying the bills...bill comes in, it's entered into a computer, it's reviewed, approved and paid.

You've likely got a process for starting a new project...

...for hiring an employee

...for ordering office supplies

...for processing payroll

But can you describe your process for getting clients, or, does it just sort of "happen"?

The problem you have when new clients "happen" to find you is that you don't know what you did to make it "happen" and you don't know how to make it "happen" again!

Deming understood two important things...

#1 You must begin by describing what you're doing as a process.

#2 Once you've described your process, it's easy to make small, incremental changes to improve results...

But until you have that process, you're just groping in the dark.

The rising cost of free

Over the weekend I was listening to a friend's new podcast. He's certainly someone to follow to and he's built a huge audience and very successful business through the Internet. He's one of the one's who "made it" online.

And he'll be the first to tell you that most any intelligent person could do what he's done.

And that's the problem...

Most anyone COULD do it, so many believe they will do it online.

But there's no such thing as an "online" business.

There's just business.

Two humans exchanging things they value.

The humans aren't "online"...they're down the block, or in the office building at city center or across the pond...but they're not online.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that the Internet is your business...it's a medium...a means of communicating.

And it very well may be a great means for finding and communicating with your best prospects...

But in many cases it is not.

The lure of "free" access to new leads might just distract you from developing real, profitable, scaleable opportunities to attract clients.

Sunday's best marketing lesson

Are you a missionary or a preacher? Missionaries do important work, but it's hard slogging...out in the far reaches of the world, trying to become accepted into a foreign culture...

Then, educating the people they meet one-by-one hoping to get a convert...and another and then enough to establish a foothold.

I've never done it, but it can't be easy.

The preacher doesn't do that at all.

She invites the believers into the tent.

She delivers the message to those in the pews...forgetting the rest.

Her focus is not on converting non-believers...instead she works to deepen the commitment of those who come to her.

Converting non-believers is hard, expensive work. But getting one more small step from someone already walking towards you is easy.

The only question is who do YOU want to market to...non-believers or the faithful already under your tent.

The most realistic way to double sales

If you've been looking around the Net for help to boost your sales you've seen far too many hyped claims… Most promise to double your business using some new Google hack…

Or Facebook loophole…

Or some other nonsense.

But it is possible to double your sales.

And it's fairly easy…if you look at the problem the right way.

Most don't…most think "all I have to do to double my numbers is call on twice as many people."

True…that'll probably work…

…and you'll get to it around the time your days expand to 48 hours from 24.

That approach assumes that the primary math in your business is addition.

But it ain't.

Your business, specifically your marketing, your client pipeline, your sales works on MULTIPLICATION.

Here's the math to prove it…if you break down your marketing into three parts (as all of my clients are taught) and you have a market of 1000 people (1000 who come to your website, or are targeted with an ad or direct mail) the numbers might look like this:

Total Market: 1000

Step 1. Getting the hand raise (lead generation)…you get 10% or 100 leads

Step 2. Getting the meeting (lead conversion)…you get 20% of the 100 or 20 meetings

Step 3. Getting the sale (client acquisition)…you get 50% of the 20 who meet with you to buy or 10 clients.

Now, you could double your market size, but that's not usually easy or possible.

OR you could simple make some small improvements at each step…

Specifically…a 27% improvement at each step.

So at Step 1 you get 12.7% (that's 27% better) to respond with a hand raise…now you have 127 leads out of 1000 instead of 100…totally doable.

At Step 2 you take those 127 leads and convert 25.4% (up from 20%) to a sales meeting (that's 27% better) so you have 32 meetings…instead of 20.

Finally at Step 3 you improve your sales conversation and turn 63% (up from 50%) into clients…out of those 32 sales conversations you get 20 clients.

Sales have doubled.

Sadly, most approach sales as a one-step affair…doubling is hard and often impossible.

Turn it into a simple system and doubling sales becomes ridiculously easy.