Be an Expert...Not a Know-It-All

Be An Expert 1
Be An Expert 1

Once a week at my company Xgility we spend 20 minutes covering one of our core values.  This week we covered number three and I had the opportunity to share five practical ways to be an expert and not a know it all.

Step 1: Be prepared

If you have a meeting, make sure you build an agenda.  I recommend confirming in advance who will be there.  This is a great opportunity to understand if there might be differing agendas or interests based on the attendees.   If you don't know the culture ask about how people will be dressed.  If the meeting is not in your office, plan to meet your contact early.  Don't underestimate the importance of having the resources you will need such as internet access, white board, connector for your projector.  I recommend having a backup plan such as printed slides or your presentation on a USB.

Step 2: Whenever possible, be specific.

Toastmasters International teaches its members to watch out for filler words such as ums and ahs.   Silence feels stressful until you get used to it.  In our business it is important to use the correct the technical word or the acronym.   Of course in meetings don't stress about having all the answers, just take great notes and use questions as an opportunity to follow up.

Step 3: Give credit to others.

It may be counter intuitive but an expert does not need to "toot their own horn".  Giving credit to others will make you appear more likeable and confident.

Step 4: Ask questions that verify you understand.

A study from the University of Michigan said that by the time the average American reaches the eighth grade, we’re only asking two to three questions a day. We come in to this world hardwired asking thousands of questions but our questions diminish as we get older.  Asking great questions is an important communication.

I recommend repeating what your customer says and asking a follow up questions.  This will help clarify and prepare you for number 5, which is follow up.  Previously on my blog I covered how and why to ask great questions in order to understand and build credibility.

Step 5: Follow Up.

Summarize your meeting both verbally and in writing and clearly document action items and next steps.   Make use of technology to make sure you and your customer remember your commitments.  Gain agreement from your customer on follow up items, due dates and who owns actions items and next steps.