Developing the “Expert’s Edge”

It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling by direct mail, the Internet, or face-to-face, your prospects (prospective customers) will fall into one of four groups.

1. First are prospects who know a lot about your product’s niche (like alternative health or consumer electronics). They fancy themselves to be experts. Using alternative health as an example, these are people who subscribe to Prevention and have four or five (or more) online health newsletters delivered via e-mail. They’re also the neighborhood authorities on alternative medicine.

2. The second group doesn’t really know much about your product niche, but they think they do. And they still fancy themselves to be experts. Like the first group, they might describe things like homeopathic cures with an outward display of competence. However, they’re not always right.

3. The third group doesn’t know much about your niche, but they want to become experts … at least in the eyes of family, friends, and associates. These people listen to the neighborhood authority, nodding heads in agreement as if they understand. At some point, they hope to be the center of attention as they describe the latest natural cure for arthritis or relate the newest FDA gaff.

4. The fourth group only wants what the product will bring them. However, these prospects frequently convert to one of the other groups after becoming involved in the niche. They’re the ones who tell friends, “Wait till I tell you about the new supplement I’m taking!”

A pretty diverse group … with one thing in common: When they buy from you, they want you to know more than they do.

Now, they don’t want you to be a know-it-all. But they do want you to be more knowledgeable than they are. And they want you to be confident enough in your knowledge to show it.


First, your prospect is looking for something new. New relief for persistent joint pain. New strategies for profiting in the stock market. A new and better stereo system. And if you don’t know more than he does about the subject, there’s no way you can fulfill that need.

Second, he wants to trust you. Your having more knowledge is a start, but it’s not enough.

You build your prospect’s trust and confidence by first telling him something he already knows. When he hears this, he thinks, “That’s right. I know free radicals cause all sorts of diseases. This guy knows what he’s talking about.”

But you secure his trust and confidence when you tell him something he doesn’t know. So you tell him that free radicals not only arise from environmental factors like pollution … they’re also a by-product of normal metabolism. In fact, they are crucial in some physiological processes (like neural transmissions).

“Wow, I didn’t know that!” he thinks. “This guy really knows his stuff. Now here’s something I can tell my friends that they’ve never heard.”

So you’ve given him a gift of knowledge – knowledge that helps him understand how you can fulfill his needs better … and knowledge that also boosts his image in his friends’ and his own estimation.

How do you become the expert?

It’s not enough to stay one step ahead of your prospect. Or two. You have to really know your product and its niche (alternative health, consumer electronics, investments, or whatever). This kind of knowledge comes from extensive research.

In general, here’s how you do it:

1. Read anything you can get your hands on in your niche – books, magazines, journals, and Internet articles by real experts. Read beyond your current level of knowledge. If you don’t understand something, look it up.

2. Listen to experts – to what they say on radio and TV. And talk to putative experts, the ones you’re selling to, so you can discover how much they really know.

3. Try it out. For example, if you’re selling a stock advisory service, invest. You’ll learn a lot the first time you lose substantial money. (This is also a great way to understand the emotions to address in selling to your prospect.)

Once you learn a lot about your niche, resist the urge to show it off in your copy. Your prospect wants you to know more than he does. But he doesn’t want to have his nose rubbed in your superior knowledge. He wants to feel like a colleague … not a student.

If you treat your prospect respectfully while maintaining the “expert’s edge,” you’ll vastly improve your sales … and your financial success.

An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgments simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore.”– Edward de Bono

[Ed. Note: Will Newman, a regular contributor to ETR, is the editor of AWAI’s The Golden Thread online newsletter. Learn how to subscribe to it – and how to discover AWAI’s proven marketing secrets.]