Today’s guest post is written by Bill Dorman.

You work in an industry which fits your personality like a glove; the work is fun and rewarding.

You truly help your customers become better businesses.

But your ‘industry’ has a perception problem and, at times, it can be less than flattering.

The ‘misconceptions’ certainly don’t apply to you because you have risen above it but, unfortunately, you are getting painted with the same broad brush.

My particular industry is insurance, but it could just as well be any other service industry such as public relations, marketing, or advertising.

We are selling our intellectual property. We paint pictures. We tell stories. What we don’t have is a tangible product you can touch and feel.

Do you see the potential difficulties in quantifying your value?

The public typically views us in general terms. If you are in PR, how many times do you have to explain the difference between public relations and advertising? And once you get past this, how do you explain what you do, how you bring value; what does your 30-second commercial sound like? Why would someone want to hire you?

And no, I’m not State Farm, Progressive, or Geico, but that is the general perception of insurance; every business or municipality you see will buy insurance and over 98 percent will not buy it from the 3 companies I just mentioned. Can you really be invisible within your own industry?

If the general public (and media) paints your industry with the same brush, what are you doing to stand out? How are you delivering your personal message?

You don’t want to be perceived as one of many, so what steps can you take to differentiate yourself?

Seven Simple Steps to Become a Trusted Advisor

  1. Make sure your message is clear, concise, and credible. Don’t ever assume people know what you do.
  2. Establish credibility in your profession and be ‘visible.’ Never stop growing or learning and always be relevant.
  3. Have the courage to walk away if you know it’s not a good fit, regardless how much money is involved. It will be much better for you in the long run.
  4. Be able to quantify your efforts. If you can show tangible results how your services affected the bottom line you will stand above many.
  5. Do what you say you will do and do it on time … always.
  6. Establish a service schedule based on the client’s expectations and monitor it frequently. This will be your report card at the end of the year.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, even if you fear a ‘no’ answer. This will ensure you always know where you stand and what, if any, work still needs to be done.

But my competition has a lower price

Sometimes you can do absolutely everything you said you would do, produce the desired results, and still get fired because someone could do it cheaper. This can be very frustrating, especially when you have taken the time to establish your value proposition.

It is always going to be competitive, but regardless of the industry you are in, ‘know’ your ideal customer. This is where your time and talent should be devoted. Just remember, your competition has this customer on their radar as well. Therefore, make sure you take care of the little things very, very well and this alone will set you apart from many.

If your pay structure is fee based, make sure you allocate the appropriate time and money into your agreement. If you go in on the cheap to ‘buy’ the business you will eventually resent the fact you are being underpaid. That is why it is important to align yourself with customers who appreciate you and what you do.

Always be an advocate

Be proud of your profession, you truly are bringing value. Always do what’s right and never be afraid to speak up on the industry’s behalf.

Bill Dorman is an insurance broker, principal/owner LanierUpshaw, Inc. He is an FSU grad, an Auburn dad, interested in people and relationships, and (according to him, not Spin Sucks) who you want to be when you grow up. Find him on Twitter @bdorman264