Most professionals I work with believe they’re worth whatever salary they covet. And they will spend a lot of time providing a long list of impressive credentials as a reason why (X degree from X place, X years of experience, etc.).

Then when promotion time comes, salary review time comes, or job offer time comes, they are confused as to why the potential employer, who said it wants someone with all of their credentials, won’t pay up or hesitates (or is secretly thinking, “Why are you so dang expensive? Are we really going to get our money’s worth from you?”).

The reason? Because it’s presentation of “value,” not features, that dictates response.

Most people mistakenly think features are value or that the value of the features is obvious, so it doesn’t need to be said or presented, but if that were true, sales and marketing would not have to work as hard as it does to sell many products that have great features, many of which provide obvious value. (Contrary to popular belief, products/services do NOT sell themselves.)

Don’t get me wrong. Features are important. Features are what we say we want, and employers are no exception. Read through any job description, and it is most likely a laundry list of credentials (aka features).

So professionals understandably then come to the conclusion that career advancement comes down to having all the “right” credentials. And they’re partially right. It is important to understand what credentials matter from a strategic standpoint because they get you into the conversation. They move you from one group competing from one level of job into another group often more fiercely competing for a higher level of job.

It’s why we often get disillusioned when we earn the next credential only to find out that the new competition pool we just entered is even tougher. We thought the thousands we spent on getting it was going to do all the “selling” we needed to do. After all, it’s what companies “say” they want, right?

Here’s the missing link: Unless you understand how to leverage your features (credentials) to communicate the true value that you bring, nothing really differentiates you from the crowd.

Credentials provide a rational reason for an employer to explain why they “bought” our service, but before the offer is closed, value provides an emotional connection. And emotional connections make us take action. Features might make us nod our heads but that’s about it; we aren’t often compelled to do something about it.

Once you’ve made the emotional connection, you’ve connected the dots; you’ve offered them a way to solve a problem they have; you’ve made an assurance (yes, a promise!) of results you will provide. That triggers response!

So don’t do what 95% of candidates will do, which is lay out their credentials and hope their rational presentation of facts and features will do the talking for them.

Instead, bring it all together with an emphasis on value. Then they can see you’re well worth the investment.