Expertise Credibility: A Prerequisite for Persuasion

In a previous post, we discussed the need to understand the “hot buttons” that really capture the attention of your senior executives. As examples, we talked about financial ROI, risk avoidance, sales risks, and high value theft cases as possible hot buttons. One reader weighed in this month with another example. He wrote, “I n my company, my CEO is all about protecting the integrity of the brand, as it relates to merchandise and customer experience.” Knowing that hot button allows this executive to advance his proposals in light of how they would support this important organizational aspiration.

In this post, we will look at another key factor in gaining board and CEO support for your programs – expertise credibility. In 1998, Jay Conger wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review titled, The Necessary Art of Persuasion which gives a great, easy to understand summary of the two prerequisites for persuading anyone to do anything – expertise credibility and relationship credibility.

Since getting anyone to adopt a new opinion or change an existing one is difficult, Conger argues that to be successful in persuading someone, they must view you as having expertise. Think about it in another context – medicine. If you were concerned that you had a serious health issue, who would you turn to for diagnosis? Someone whose only claim to expertise is that they “stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night”? In fact, if you had a disease that was really serious, you would most likely seek out the doctor with the best reputation and experience in the area of medicine you require. You would not likely go to an optometrist or even your general practitioner if you had a rare blood disorder.

But, have you ever noticed that it seems like everyone in your organization thinks they know how to do loss prevention? While we should always want the ideas and contributions of others in the enterprise, we also need to do a better job at establishing our own expertise and the existence of loss prevention as a professional expertise akin to accounting or marketing or human resources.

One of the ways we can do a better job with establishing credibility is by increasing transparency. In other words, let’s educate others about what we do and how we make our decisions. Let’s listen to their perspectives and not be defensive. If you learn what they think, you will have a better handle on how to work with them and what you need to do to persuade them to a different mindset. Educate them on our industry. How many people know that there are professional conferences, research councils, text books, certifications, and degree programs for loss prevention?

At the end of the day, we must have more substance in our profession both at the industry level and within our own organizations if we hope to have lasting impact. I highly recommend Conger’s article as he also discusses how you can improve your expertise credibility on a tactical level. Even more importantly, I would like to encourage you to write in with your thoughts, examples, disagreements with this column and any future ones. This space will be a whole lot more useful to everyone if you participate and add your thoughts. Otherwise, you are simply stuck with my opinions…

Do you and your department have “expertise credibility” in your organization? Do you have it with certain functions or people but not others? For instance, do you have strong credibility with the CFO, but not your head merchant or HR executive? Do you have some examples of successes you have had in establishing expertise credibility within your organization? If so, please share them and we can generate further ideas and dialogue.

In a future post, we will start to look at the next element in building the case for the value the loss prevention function brings to the retail enterprise – relationship credibility.


Originally published in RILA Report – Asset Protection – November 2008

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