What Matters More? Qualifications or Experience?

Imagine today that you have a benign tumor growing on your neck. You need to find a surgeon who can help you. Who do you look for?

You’d probably ask around for a couple of recommendations from people close to you, narrow the list down to a few surgeons and check them out one by one.

What you probably won’t do is put your life in the hands of who aren’t qualified M.D.s. In the field of medicine, we have come to expect doctors to have qualifications. Doctors who are forced to practice illegally.

But does this apply to all industries? Would you be practicing illegally or selling some service illegally if you don’t have specific qualifications in that industry?

Where you absolutely need qualifications

My brother-in-law is an accountant. Last year he had to take over 10 exams to get his CPA qualifications so he can become an auditor. In accounting, this is standard practice. Without a CPA certification, my brother-in-law can never audit anyone’s account statements.

In accounting and some other industries, qualifications are the entry ticket. They’re signals of competency that people have come to trust. In some cases, qualifications have become intertwined with national regulations that anyone who doesn’t have particular qualifications can not practice legally.

These include law, medicine and engineering, among others. In fields like these, qualifications are a must. These are the businesses where you see certificates being hung in waiting lobbies.

Where you probably don’t need qualifications

While some industries will probably never bend on their rules about having qualifications, many other industries don’t see qualifications as a necessity. In fact, for these industries the thought qualifications don’t even cross their minds.

These include industries like food, drink, publishing, marketing, sales, automation… I could go on all day because there are hundreds of thousands of industries where qualifications don’t matter.

What does matter is that you give your customers the solution to their pain.

This is even truer now. The internet has also given us the opportunity to build businesses that couldn’t exist ten years ago. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t even have a degree but is the envy of many who do.

And that’s where it gets tricky

In industries where you need formal qualifications, it’s pretty easy to beat out about 99.99999% of the rest of the people. You just need to go through a standard set of assessments, get qualified and that’s it.

People who want to become doctors know exactly what they need to do. The road from here to there is almost a textbook example that can be used over and over again.

But in industries where the path isn’t so clear, you can become very uncertain on how to go about building the same kind of instant credibility that comes with formal qualification.

How to succeed in industries without standard qualifications

Where you can’t rely on formal qualifications, you have to signal credibility to your customers.

A simple Google search for shoes can turn up hundreds of thousands of shoe sellers. How do you stand out?

Becoming good at building trust with people will help you become your customers’ top choice.

Here are seven ways you can do that:

1. Show specific ways you helped a past customer

Whenever you deliver exceptional service to a customer, make sure you ask them to write a short recommendation for you. Get them to be as specific as possible. If you helped them lose weight, how much? How quickly?

To make things even easier for them, offer to write the testimonials for them and get them to approve it.

When you show your people how your product or service has helped your past customers, your potential customers will trust you more.

2. Put a face and name on all your testimonials

The most convincing testimonials are the ones with real pictures and real names. Showing a bunch of testimonials written by anonymous people don’t show credibility. In fact, it can even signal a scam.

Ask permission from your customers to use their name and photo along with their recommendation.

3. Make it easy for people to find these testimonials

It doesn’t matter if you have 100 great recommendations for your service if all you do is keep them in a book that you show customers you meet face to face.

Place them in strategic places where you think your customers might be looking to find out more about your service.

If your customers are spending a lot of time on your website, make sure that these testimonials are there. The more that they see other people recommending your service the more they feel confident about choosing your service over others.

4. Don’t use free websites for your online presence

One of the worst things to do in branding online is using free websites. Using free domains on WordPress or Blogspot tells people that your business is an after thought. It tells them that they are also an after thought.

Invest in a good host and a professional looking website. It signals professionalism and it shows respect for those you want to serve.

5. Show your expertise by giving away information on your blog

One of the easiest ways to show your customers that you can do the job is by teaching them how it’s done. The well-known online marketer Neil Patel was able to successfully position himself as an online marketing expert is by constantly giving valuable information away for free on his marketing blog.

If you don’t already have a blog, consider starting one. But remember to only write things that are useful for your customers. And update your blog frequently. Nothing signals a lack of commitment than an abandoned blog.

When you provide highly valuable information on your blog for free, people will have no questions when it comes to paying for your services in the future. Since they already know what to expect.

6. Get some already credible to recommend you

Brands pay millions of dollars to get celebrities to recommend their products. The only reason they do this is because celebrities are already credible in the eyes of the masses. When brands associate themselves with well-known celebrities, they start to look credible too.

While you don’t have to pay millions or get famous people to endorse you, you can get someone well-known in your niche to recommend you.

7. Speak at events and conferences

Instead of just joining events and conferences, consider speaking. Speakers at conferences instantly gain celebrity status and are seen as the authority in whatever the topic of their talk. People who are impressed by your talk become instant fans of yours.

When that happens you can more easily sell them things that you think they can use to solve their problems.

Don’t worry about getting a spot in big conferences, you can start by joining small groups of people and work your way up.

Question: How would you know if you need qualifications?

The best way to find out is to look around you. Has anyone ever been successful without qualifications?

Let’s say you want to do online marketing. This is easily one of the services that don’t require you to have any kind of formal qualifications. What matters to your customers more are the results – whether you can help them get more eye balls on their sites.

Conclusions: Don’t let qualifications stop you

Qualifications are an easy way to gain credibility. However, in many new business areas which have popped up in recent years it has become increasingly difficult to show credibility. With no standard methods of showing instant credibility, your best bet is to build a trust relationship with your customers.

By showing them that you know what you are doing and you’re committed to not letting them down, you can build a business that can outlast you for years to come.

What are some ways you’ve been able to gain credibility without qualifications?

Lu Wee is the Founder of The Entrepreneur Campfire. The Entrepreneur Campfire (TEC) is where smart entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia gather. You can find practical articles on how to grow, market and scale your business on TEC.

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