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10 Steps to Building an Impeccable Professional Reputation A good reputation attracts business better than any advertising. Gaining that standing is a process lasting a lifetime.

By Brian Barquilla

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ask any business service provider who is their ideal client, the conversation will nearly always begin with a referral from a trusted source. It is no doubt that getting your phone to ring from someone who already has made the mental decision to work with you is by far the easiest way to build a great practice.

But, what can you do to influence this behavior? Below we identified 10 best practices that serve as the foundation for any solid client acquisition process.

1. Be credible with uncompromising integrity.

Without reputation you have nothing. Building a great reputation means that you always do the right thing even when nobody is watching. We call that integrity.

Related: 5 Ways to Help Build Your Integrity

2. Manage and leverage your digital footprint.

It's a digital world and managing what appears online about you is critical. Research shows that behind every major decision, prospects are searching online for information to ease their anxiety. What will they find when they look at your online presence? LinkedIn profiles should be optimized, reviews monitored and videos posted. At least the first page of Google should be directly influenced by you.

3. Engage.

Get involved and be part of the conversation with topics relevant to your business. The unwritten rule in politics is the same as business. Stand up and define your messaging or your competitors will do it for you. It's up to you to define your niche. Look for opportunities to speak to civic or business groups, or to get involved with your relevant professional organization.

4. Lead through education.

Writing a white paper, hosting a webinar or speaking to a group adds value and demonstrates your expertise. Don't make the content a sales pitch because it isn't needed and will turn off prospects. Positioning yourself as a subject-matter expert is all the advertising you need. Get out of the mindset that you have to charge fees for every nugget of useful information. That's old school and ineffective in the information age. Give people what they want, and let them come to you for more in-depth conversations. That's when the fees start.

5. Look for opportunities to improve.

Regularly poll your customers and business associates on how you are performing. While the news may be painful to hear at times, it's necessary to reach new levels of effectiveness. Customers will appreciate your dedication to excellence. Carve out some time for professional education. You can't expect to get better if you don't put the work in.

Related: 4 Ways Technology Is Making Education More Affordable and Available

6. Genuinely problem solve.

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. How can the service you perform address the core issue at hand? Are you treating the symptom or the problem? You may possess a clearer understanding of a situation because of your background or because you are removed from emotions. Have the courage to ask deep questions and challenge assumptions.

7. Be strategically responsive.

It sounds simple enough, but establish a standard for communication. How soon will you respond to a request? If you are out of the office, can someone else on your team help? What constitutes an emergency? When should your cell phone number be given out? These questions need clear answers. Speed is the number one priority.

8. Have a sense of urgency.

Ever heard the saying "Your lack of planning does not make my emergency"? That doesn't entirely work in business. Your customer's emergencies are your emergencies, if you want to keep them. Be the vendor who tackles every task quickly and sees it through to the end.

9. Do what you say and say what you mean.

When you are predictable and reliable, that always translates well to clients. Business is all about risk. Clients don't want to be left wondering how you will perform on their challenge. If you say you will return a call at 3 p.m. or have a deliverable by the end of the week, do it! Leave the excuses for the "B" players in your industry. This is the big leagues!

10. Be a thought leader.

Everyone wants to work with the smartest man or woman in the room. Do you want your surgeon to be just so-so? Or for your trial attorney to have a losing record? Of course not! Thought leaders teach and influence others. They shape perspectives and give clients the peace of mind to know they are working with the best.

So there you have it. Ten solid techniques to put you ahead of your competition. If execute well, you will have an army of referral partners that will propel your business to the next level. Remember that the best way to repay them is to reciprocate. Develop your trusted inner circle and have confidence your referrals will be treated well.

Related: You Don't Need to Be Elon Musk or Sheryl Sandberg to Be a Thought Leader

Brian Barquilla

Entrepreneur, marketing expert and founder of AdvantageB2B consulting+marketing

Brian Barquilla is the president of AdvantageB2B Consulting + Marketing and is an expert in marketing privately owned businesses. With more than 15 years of experience as a CEO, Brian holds degrees in marketing and management from Jacksonville University. He lives in North Florida with his wife Robin and their two children.

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