I recently started a discussion within different LinkedIn groups where I asked consultants, sales and marketing leaders how they were differentiating themselves from others in their industry. One consultant mentioned that her differentiation was defined by her extensive experience and her successful professional achievements, which contributed to the development of a variety of sectors.
But experience (no matter how extensive it may be) is not a differentiator. It’s a credibility builder as it shows that you are qualified—but there are thousands of others who may also be qualified to help with my business needs.
Your years of experience doesn’t tell me the unique business value that I will receive from your services or solutions. It doesn’t show me your relevance to my needs now and that you understand my unique situation and have an alternative solution that I haven’t already tried. Unless you’ve actually shown me on your LinkedIn profile that you have evolved and what your business value is now, I think that your approach and techniques may be old and outdated. Organizations are looking for new, fresh, young blood. So unless you demonstrate that you’ve evolved, your years of experience mean little to nothing.
But consultants and other continue to you use their years of experience as a differentiator. Here are some examples to show you what I mean….
CEO Coach Uses 20 Years of Experience and Awards as a Differentiator…
Let’s look at this summary in detail. This CEO Coach mentions that he’s a “talented leadership coach and organizational change specialist who partners with his clients to improve performance and produce better business results”. Isn’t that what every leadership coach is supposed to do for their client? How does this make him any different?
He goes on to say that he has more than 20 years of “progressive experience” as a management consultant to family businesses to Fortune 100 corporations to nonprofits and government agencies. Do you see anywhere in his profile what that experience means to the prospect and the value they will receive?
I just see that he’s an experienced, award-winning “generalist” as he has no specific industry focus and is not claiming expertise in a certain area. By focusing on his “years of experience” and accomplishments, he puts himself in the same camp as others who are just as qualified.
Management Consultant Uses 40 Years of Experience as a Differentiator
Doesn’t this profile seem to read and have the same positioning as the consultant above with the same generic benefits of higher performance and better results. He just has 20 additional years of experience in working with organizations of all sizes in the public, private and not-for-profit sector. So again, he’s a generalist with no unique business value to the prospect!
Business Finance Coach Promotes 36+ Years Helping Entrepreneurs Fulfill Their Dreams to Differentiate Himself
This consultant is so focused on using years of experience as a differentiator that he used in in the profile headline and in his summary. His headline actually reads: For 36+ Years, Helping Entrepreneurs Fulfill Their Dreams. This claim sounds a bit like fluff to me. What does “helping entrepreneurs fulfill their dreams” really mean anyway?
His whole summary is about his experience (in fact it reads like a cover letter and resume!) He missed the boat by talking about himself and his accomplishments and roles instead of his unique business value to multiple-founder start-ups and closely-held family businesses.
Management Consultant Uses Years of Experience and Certifications as a Differentiator
This Management Consultant not only uses her years of experience as a differentiator but her Certifications as well. But what business value do those certifications brings me. Just like years of experience – certifications are a credibility builder but it does not speak to your value and how you are different.
I shocked another consultant when I told him that his certifications means nothing to the prospect who’s looking for business value. He thought that his Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation would differentiate him from uncertified consultants. He responded by saying that maybe if the consulting organizations would promote the qualification so more people know about it – then it would be a differentiator.
But he’s missing the point, even if these consulting organizations promoted the qualification and more people knew about it, it wouldn’t matter. The real issue is that the certification is just a qualification; it’s a way to build his credibility. The CMC certification is not a differentiator. It doesn’t show his unique value. It’s a great achievement but has nothing to do with the unique business value he can provide to his clients and prospective clients.
Now, I’m not saying that you should stop using your years of experience and other qualifications. You do need credibility builders so prospects see that you are the expert and you can back your claims. But, you need to have a balance and discuss your unique business value that prospects are seeing.
Kristina Jaramillo is a Partner, Get LinkedIn Help.