How to End Your Dependence on a Subject Matter Expert

You only need two things to be a trusted advisor. You need trust. And you need advice.

If you must rely on a subject matter expert to provide the advice because you are not knowledgeable enough about your industry, your client’s industry, the issues impacting your client’s business, the potential solutions, and the trade-offs they may be required to make to produce better results, you can never be a trusted advisor.

If you know nothing with the exception of the people on your team who do know things, you can never be your dream client’s go-to-person. You are just a guy who knows a guy.

You can get better fast. You can learn most of what you need to know, without having to be as deep as the SME you carry around like a crutch.

The Notebook

The first thing you need to do to bridge the gap in your knowledge is to buy a notebook. Get yourself one of those nice Moleskin notebooks, or maybe something from Baron Fig. Get something nice because you are going to carry it with you on every call you make—with or without a subject matter expert.

You are going to capture your subject matter’s expert in this notebook.

  • On any call where you need a subject matter expert, write down any question that your prospect or client asks them. Then write down their answer.
  • When your subject matter asks your client a question, write down that question, along with the client’s answer.
  • When your subject matter expert shares some insight or some piece of technical knowledge, write it down.

If your subject matter is talking, you are listening and taking notes.

Post Call Training

When you debrief after the meeting, you are going to use that time to massively increase your knowledge and understanding. The goal is to rid yourself of your reliance on a subject matter expert and become one yourself.

Ask your subject matter expert why your client asked them the questions that they asked and what makes it important to them. Then ask them why they answered they way the did, whether or not that’s a standard answer, and what another answer might have been and why it would have been wrong.

Then, go through the questions your SME asked your client and ask why they asked what they asked, and why it was important. Have them explain the client’s answer, and what it means in terms of your potential solution.

Repeat all of these things back to your subject matter expert to make sure you understand them.

Not Knowing is Not Knowing Nothing

It’s okay to not know things. It is not okay to know nothing.

You will find that after repeating this process on five or six good sales call, you will start to understand a lot of what you need to know, and you will be able to ask and answer questions without the aid of a subject matter expert. This is a matter of intentions.

When something is super technical, you can always bring the people you need to support you. But most of the time, especially early in the sales process, you will have the ability to create value for your client without any support.

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