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Being the Expert in Consulting

Updated on September 20, 2011
Merchandising in China
Merchandising in China

This week I was consulting to a merchandise company and I needed to be the expert when talking with them about a new merchanise concept. The difficulty was that they were the real expert and I was just the consultant trying to think up a new way to generate revenue.

In a lot of situations, as a consultant, you need to be the expert when speaking with stakeholders . This week I became that expert when consulting with the merchandise supplier. Wickham and Wickham speak about the need for a consultant to be an expert and to use influencing skills (2008, pp.54-58) and I felt that I made that transition this week, even though I was less certain about my merchandise concepts, especially with another ‘expert’.

This ties in really well with my reading this week. I read in HBR how experts can become more persuasive if they are less certain about their opinions, in fact research says you become more compelling (Tormala, 2011, pp.32-33).

With the supplier I proposed strategic alliance merchandise concept to him. He was lukewarm on this at best. However, I deferred to his merchandise knowledge and laid out the whole plan of a sports hub and alliances with other sporting clubs. I also pointed out that these clubs have juniors, so rather than sending them off to other competitors to buy equipment that they could go to sporting hub to purchase and that this would increase revenue for his business. A small add on of extra merchandise may then be able to be sold. He agreed that this could work.

What Lessons Have I Learned?

· Similarly to the HBR experience I became more compelling because I was less certain about my concept

· By explaining to the supplier that I had thought through the concept he found that the performance could be better for all parties if we could make it work

· I have found that being an expert is not always about trying to prove to people that you are right, but working together, albeit tentatively, to achieve a collective outcome

This concept is new to me, but I will continue to use this technique on this and future consultancies. I’m not the expert in all fields, but I can put together a very good plan. This will assist me in being compelling to the main client and achieving the outcome that is expected from me.


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