Secret vs Known Expert - Unmasked:

Secret vs Known Expert - Unmasked

The Known Expert commands a room. His* opinion is sought and when he gives it, people listen. They take notes. His advice is taken seriously and his recommendations are implemented. He is well compensated for his expertise. His counsel; his thinking, his execution & experience is valuable. He dictates the appropriate timeframe of the engagement and he delivers on time, every time. His ability to communicate to non-experts (ie: everyone else), to distill the complex big picture, the consequences of the situation, and he recommended course of action, is unparallel. He is always recognized as an expert. Respect and control are his.


The Secret Expert does not necessarily command a room. People may listen to his opinion, regardless of the insight it contains. How seriously his advice is taken depends as much on the delivery as the content. His compensation varies and is often again dictated by a savvy proposal - rather than trust in his track record. The Secret Expert’s counsel, his thinking, his execution & experience may, or may not, be considered valuable. He does not dictate the timeframe of the engagement and often relinquishes control or autonomy to land the engagement in the first place. His personality is very important, the more engaging he is, the more likely he is to get the job. Respect is possible, but always hard-earned. Control is not his.


What if the Known Expert and the Secret Expert had exactly the same knowledge, skills, and experience? What if their counsel was equally insightful, their execution equally excellent? What if, on all levels, their expertise was identical?


What if they were competing head-to-head, who would be chosen for a prestigious project?


The Known Expert would, without question.


The bigger question is, Which one is your company?


This scenario is not theoretical for the sake of discussion; it is very real and playing out every day in the IT channel (let along in life and business in general).


The IT channel is a complex business ecosystem full of powerful forces. The basic nature of the channel model is aligned against the expert VAR – but not in the way you think it is. The channel was designed to move complex products and services from manufacturers into the hands of consumers. Being the “middle man” by definition, VARs are affected by these powerful influences, and from all angles. The ways of the channel are not aligned against the VAR to hurt them, much the opposite – the way of the channel helps a VAR be a better salesman. But, in reality, it encourages him to be a much better salesman than he must be to be his best. Simply put, the IT channel (the resources and the philosophy) is designed to sell things. A VAR’s purpose is to add value in the form of knowledge (design, service, implementation) as they deliver the product to the consumer.


Most VARs are Secret Experts. The forces of the IT channel draw VAR’s focus away from working for the client (as a doctor does, objectively with the client's best interest in mind) to working for the client and the work itself. Or, put another way, VARs expend a lot to energy proving their worthiness for an engagement as they are selling (selling themselves, selling servers, services, and software). These influences make it difficult for VARs to establish their own identity and build repeatable ways to communicate. They make winning new business more one-off salesmanship than deliberate step-by-step process. They draw you away from what you do best which is adding value and taking care of your clients.


By now you should be asking the really big question: How does my VAR become the Known Expert?


That is the right question and the answer is: Through Positioning.


* The use of He/His is interchangeable with Her/She, we chose to use the masculine in our hypothetical not to insult, offend, or exclude - but to hopefully streamline an already muddled picture.