Beyond the Expertise

During a visit yesterday with my pal Robert, our conversation drifted toward a subject he is passionate about: the art of acting. Robert, an actor and acting coach, related an incident about an acting student of his. The student was nervous about going into an audition, and was very focused on what the casting director was looking for.

“Don’t focus on what the casting director wants or needs,” Robert told him. “Focus on what qualities that you have that you know this role needs.”

As someone who is obsessed with marketing, I, of course, instantly translated this idea to my field. Robert’s sage advice on acing an audition is really no different what any of us do if we do our jobs well, be it acting or marketing, or dog-walking.

As a consultant, I look at my clients’ projects and consider what I can bring to each one beyond my expertise. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not advocating that I do not focus on their needs–I wouldn’t be doing my job, and as someone who spent much of her career in-house, it always bugged me when consultants we hired weren’t really listening to our needs and goals.

People hire you for your expertise, but what more can you bring to the table? What qualities do you possess that can add extra value? Your client has goals, but can you look at problems they have that may need solving, and see where you can contribute added value? Maybe it’s a project with moving parts and you happen to be a stickler for deadlines, or you have an eagle eye for detail. How can what you do well naturally, beyond your skill set, help them even more in the project?

To give a real-life example of this, look at sales people. If you are not a charming person who genuinely likes people, you are probably not an effective salesperson. It may be hard for you to put clients at ease or connect with them, for example. That would hinder closing a sale. Or social media: of late, I’ve heard an increasing number of speakers and social media experts say you might want to delegate social media if you are not a social person becuase it won’t come naturally to you. Conversely, if you have a client who is struggling with their program, and you are a good communicator, offer up some tips or even suggest some content. These kind of things don’t take a lot of time and help further enrich your relationship with your client. It’s what my grandma used to call establishing good faith, and it goes a long way.

When we do a good job, we’re bringing to the table more than our skills. We’re bringing pieces of our character.

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