I was reminded today about how much the internet has changed our lives.

Information

You want to find information, it’s all there.  More information is available for free today than ever before in history.  Whatever you’re interested in, you can Google any questions you have and you’ll be able to access a whole range of information that is specific to your topic.

So are we any better off because all this information is available?  Maybe not.

If I want to find information on setting up a company, I can find it on the web, for free.  The information is available.  But I have to find it, read it and understand it.  That’s where the next bit comes in – knowledge.

Knowledge

Knowledge is understanding information.  Knowledge is taking the information contained in multiple sources and putting it together so it makes some kind of sense.

A lot of MBA students have knowledge.  Say they’re taking a marketing subject.  They can learn all about positioning, the four P’s, value propositions, distribution channels etc.  They can obtain information from different sources and convert it into knowledge. 

But knowing about something and actually being able to do something are two different things.

And that’s where expertise comes in.

Expertise

Expertise is being able to take the knowledge and learnings from past experiences and being able to apply it to a particular situation.  You can’t buy expertise – you earn it through years of doingGladwell talks about needing 10,000 of practice before you become proficient at a skill – that’s expertise.  You can have all the knowledge and information, but actually using it and learning from it is how you gain expertise.

  • Expertise comes from making mistakes – and learning from them.
  • Expertise comes from having huge successes – and understanding what made them successful.
  • Expertise comes from learning from other experts and watching them operate.
  • Expertise comes from applying your knowledge and information and watching the outcomes.

What Do You Sell

This blog is aimed at people who sell professional services. 

In professional services, if all you sell is information, you’ll quickly become redundant.  Because if it’s not already available for free, it soon will be.  A great example is mutual fund ratings.  For years financial planners had exclusive access to mutual fund ratings – if you wanted a five star fund you needed to see a financial planner to find out who the good fund managers are.  That information is now available for free.

If all you sell is knowledge, it’s not enough.  Many potential clients think they’re able to do it themselves because they can access the information and convert it into knowledge.  But knowledge without experience is dangerous.  It’s the investor who knows who the five star funds are and invests blindly into those funds without stopping to think about whether the performance is likely to continue.  It’s the difference between reading about how to fly a plane and having actual experience in the air flying.

If you’re selling knowledge and you’ve been around for a while, you can sell expertise instead.  Expertise is hard to quantify, but clients value it.  Your job is to make the benefits of your expertise tangible to your clients.

Legal services is a good example.  Say you need to write a Will.  Of course you can obtain the information and knowledge to write one.  You can even buy a DIY Will kit and complete it yourself.

But you lack expertise.  The lawyer doesn’t.

It costs a bit more to get a lawyer to draw up your Will, but you gain peace of mind.  If you did it yourself, you wouldn’t know about any problems until it was too late (then your Estate would find out about those problems).  You may forget about the tax implications of selling assets, you may mention assets in your Will that won’t actually form part of your estate – there are a range of things that can go wrong in even the most simplest of estates. 

So if I was a lawyer, I’d be promoting my expertise to potential clients.  I’d be highlighting potential problems and then explain how my advice could prevent them.  I’d be selling the benefits of my experience – this is my job, it’s what I do for a living.  Sure you can try and do it yourself to save some money now, but it may turn out to be more costly in the long term.

So what do you sell?  Information, knowledge or expertise?

Which ones do you think are worth more?

How do you differentiate between the three when you’re speaking with clients?

How can you make your experience more tangible to your clients?

Let me know what you think and leave a comment.