I've spent a lot of time lately talking with companies about their "areas of authority": those issues, technologies or market segments for which they see themselves as more than an expert.

It takes real confidence (and a decent amount of moxie) to declare it–and once you have, you need to be able to withstand the slings and arrows of competitors who would challenge your claim.

What defines authority? You probably need a few things to support your claim.

1. Know Your Turf

I am the foremost authority on key account sales. I'm not kidding: Google "key account sales expert" and you'll see me. I'm not the foremost expert on all sales, or on sales training, or other market segments. I know my section of the market. What is the segment over which you can claim authority?

2. Be a Standard Bearer

The authority in any market either knows or sets the standards. What defines excellence, or average and unacceptable performance? What do the most credible providers bring to the table, and how should an informed buyer be considering potential providers?

3. Be Current, Relevant & Engaged

The authority knows what is going on. You know the new entrants on the scene, technologies that work, the latest in regulation, recent (and likely) mergers and acquisitions, and who is moving and shaking. The authority is a clearinghouse of knowledge in that space.

4. Set the Trends

Forward-looking language, questions and answers are indicators of authority. Sometimes market drivers shape the future, while at other times your response will set pace and direction.

5. Publish & Speak

You should be a vocal authority in your segment. Among the ways to publicly define the conversation: White papers, blogs, books, articles, videos, keynote speeches, panel discussions, and interviews.

6. Declare Yourself

After all of these more grandiose ideas of authority, let me get back to the first and smallest step: Declare yourself, your authority, and your turf. It doesn't have to be a press conference; it could be as simple as the sign on your door, or a tagline on your website.

If you are the authority, then step up to the microphone of your market and declare it. Just make certain you have the stuff to back it up. As a great writer once noted, "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."