I like to think I'm a master at finding solutions to problems that others find complicated. I'm what they call a technical subject matter expert (SME) for corporate sales at AT&T. Being a SME means I'm always invited to help put together solutions to help my teams make their quotas. And each time a customer buys one of my multimillion-dollar solutions, it proves my value.
Becoming a SME has served me well in both my personal and professional lives, so I'm sharing my tried-and-true tips for proving your value, regardless of your title.
1. Be first (not last!) to volunteer to learn something new. Not only volunteer, but enthusiastically volunteer.
2. Read everything you can, internally or externally -- and don't be afraid to contact article authors to deepen your understanding.
3. Stay on the frontline of the bleeding edge. It's a precarious place to be, but others will seek you out for your experiences and expertise.
4. Be the devil's advocate. Asking many questions and presenting many "what-ifs" to solution developers will establish your intimate knowledge of any topic.
5. Seek out opportunities to speak about your specialties and teach others. It will further reinforce your knowledge of the information. I find answering client questions helps me fine-tune my future presentations.
6. Never, ever fudge. You'll instantly lose your credibility if you're caught speaking about something you know nothing, or very little, about. You'll be so much more respected if you simply say, "That's a great question; let me get right back to you with an answer." Then, stay true to your word and make sure you provide that answer.
7. Do not consider your subject-matter-expert status in a particular area as "mission accomplished." If developments in that area slow to a trickle -- or if you start to anticipate the questions on the subject, it's time to find your next challenge.
8. Lastly, being a SME doesn't mean you're a know-it-all. If that's how you approach it, you'll be only a placeholder until a "team player" replacement can be found. You should feel humbled, not entitled, when others seek you out to contribute to the team's success.
If you feel that your contributions are overlooked, take these steps to prove your value to the team. Eventually, people will beat down your door for your input.
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