Informing the IBM Community

Selling your expertise


You’re brought in to help because you know something that they don’t. You’ve got a world of experience and an old-school, belts-and-braces approach that makes it much less of a risk for a project if the company has you around.

Now, the very fact that—to them—you’re an expert (don’t argue!), means that you can very easily lose them. Simply because you have some insight, some perspective, that they don’t.

The question is: how do you communicate that to them without losing them in technobabble?

Here’s an approach I’ve found very effective: don’t talk about your solution! Weird, I know.

The key to selling your expertise isn’t to show off how much you know. The secret is to ask the right questions, make them feel understood, that you really care about their business.

In fact, if you can explain their problem to them, and describe their pain, better than they can themselves, they’ll assume you know the solution.

How, exactly, do you do that?

Here’s what I like to do: sympathise with the client’s pain as if you didn’t have a solution.

Try it.

Ask questions like:

  • How long has this been a problem?
  • What happens if you do nothing about it?
  • How many people are affected by this?

You can try this with any business owner at all. In fact, I like to practice in industries that I know I know nothing about. It’s a way of forcing me to dig into what their pain is, what their goals are, and (especially) how important it is to them to get to the top of that mountain.

So many technical people lead with their solution, but I find that about as effective as a dentist walking around, asking people if they want some root canal surgery.

There’s a better way. Dig into the problem. Don’t fix it. Just understand it. You’ll be amazed at how much further this gets you in selling your solution. (And so will the customer!)


Anthony English teaches IT people how to talk business, to help them land better clients. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.


How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.