The Mark of a Professional

Visually, we can see the difference between grainy amateur photography and the vibrant work of a professional. There’s a big leap in skill and performance between a minor-league ballplayer and someone who makes it onto an MLB team. The same is true in business, where the true professionals capture the lion’s share of rewards while the also-rans get the table scraps.

The good news is that being a true professional is a personal choice, a commitment to your craft and delivering extraordinary value to customers. To me, professional designations such as doctor, lawyer, or engineer are simply the entry ticket into your field. How you apply your training, elevate your game, and serve others is what determines your true pro status. Here are five things that professionals do to stand out from the competitive set and ensure their sustainable position at the top of their fields:

1) Deliver at the highest levels, no matter what. There are many times when the circumstances of our performance are sub-optimal. If you’re trying a case in a crowded court with a grumpy judge and a biased jury, it would be easy to play small. But performing at your absolute best despite unforeseen or difficult circumstances…is the mark of a professional.

2) Don’t make your problems your customer’s problems. Your clients have their own issues, so don’t pass along yours. If your supplier let you down, the previous client took too long, or someone on your team quit unexpectedly, it shouldn’t matter one single bit to your customer. You were hired to deliver: plain and simple. Delivering on commitments despite your own issues…. is the mark of a professional.

3) Be freakishly responsive. We’re all constrained by the same 24-hour clock. Too many emails, calls, and to-do items can easily bog us down. But in our instant-gratification world, your clients hate the wait. There are many things in business outside your control, but responsiveness is not one of them. Responding with a burning sense of urgency…is the mark of a professional.

4) Stay passionate about the work. Remember how charged-up you were on your first day? You were overflowing with passion and desire for your craft. As time wears on, enthusiasm can easily wane. But customers feel your apathy creating a dreary experience instead of an inspiring one. Bringing that day-one passion and energy to each and every customer…is the mark of a professional.

5) Add unexpected value. Delivering fully against all expectations – time, price, quality, and service – should only be the baseline. Adding a little unexpected ‘wow’ in the form of an extra bit of service, speed, product, or even thank-you gift, separates you from the competitive herd. Delivering above and beyond expectations…is the mark of a professional.

In our increasingly competitive business climate, there will be less and less room for mediocrity. To win consistently and enjoy the highest levels of success, we must double down on the commitment to professional-grade standard. Embrace the five marks of a professional, and your business will be in the all-star crowd before you know it. Game on.