Be Cheap, Smart and Trusted

Be Cheap, Smart and Trusted

by Randall Craig

How do you compete? Why would someone buy your services? While we may not think of ourselves as "product", we compete all of the time: for jobs, for acceptance of our ideas, and for personal approval.

Tier one - Price: At the most basic level, you are chosen because you are the cheapest. This clearly isn't where many of us would like to be, as it is risky: there will always be someone who is willing to shave their price just that much more.

Tier two - Expertise: Because it takes longer to acquire, expertise has greater staying power than price; your guru-hood brings value. The problem, though, is that there will always be others who are fresher and sharper than you are.

Tier three - Trust: At this level, others seek you out because of your independence and objectivity. You may not know all of the answers, but your recommendations, and perspective, have value. You are more than an employee, salesperson, or support engineer: you have earned your credibility and proven your value.

This model makes even more sense when you see the lower tiers as foundational. Without delivering value (tier one), you may not even be considered. Without delivering expertise (tier two), you may not get close enough to develop a trust relationship. And without developing and delivering trust (tier three), your recommendations will lack credibility and therefore not be implemented. And without implementation, questions arise as to your value – which brings us back to tier one!

If you are looking for a promotion - or a new job - you can't do it without expertise and trust. They are scrutinized during the job interview, and verified through your references.

This week's action plan: What should your personal strategy be? Would you prefer to be known as the cheapest, the smartest, or the most trusted? To be successful in your career, you must grow all three dimensions. Ironically, it is Expertise and Trust that we focus least on, and Price (Salary?) that commands the greatest amount of our attention. This week, commit to doing one thing that will improve your expertise, and another that will earn trust.

Randall Craig is a Toronto-based management consultant, speaker, and author of "Leaving the Mother Ship," a career-planning book. For more information and resources: and