Selling Consulting Services with Authority

Dr. Cialdini is a world expert on Influence, Persuasion, and Pre-Suasion. His books, Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion, and Pre-Suasion, have sold over 7 million copies. He is Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. 

This video is excerpted from How to Get People to Say "Yes" (31:25 - 41:24) with Robert Cialdini in The Knowledge Project, #122.
The commentary below is from my 30+ years of consulting.


Having professional authority is critical to a winning consultative sales process.

In his best-selling books, "Influence" and "Pre-suasion", Dr. Robert Cialdini dives into the concept of "Authority." 

Dr. Cialdini shows that people are naturally inclined to follow the lead of credible experts. This can be a powerful tool in persuasion as long as it's genuinely earned and, for consultants, used in a consultative sales process.

Credibility is the backbone of authority. As a consultant, you must establish your expertise, becoming the unique go-to resource in your niche. That, in turn, persuades clients to trust and engage with you more. Using symbols of authority, such as credentials, testimonials, or case studies, gives your authority credibility and amplifies its impact.

Remember, authority doesn't just come from your qualifications or credentials. According to Dr. Cialdini’s research, it also involves how you communicate with your clients. Clear, confident communication is essential in projecting authority and can significantly influence your ability to persuade others.  

Case Study: A Successful Application of Authority in Consultative Selling        

 Consider how Jan Duggan, a technology consultant, leveraged her authority to win a lucrative contract with a major healthcare provider. Jan is a veteran in her field, with a decade of experience implementing enterprise-level IT solutions. Beyond her impressive resume, she has a host of industry certifications, published articles, and has spoken at numerous local and national industry conferences. Her LinkedIn profile and short professional website give case studies and testimonials that prove her authority.

Early in the sales process, Jan showcased her authority through a well-structured presentation that included case studies of her previous successful projects. She outlined how she helped similar organizations overcome IT challenges and enhance operational efficiency.

Jan used that presentation to claim her expertise and reinforce it with tangible proof.

Jan also leveraged her social media presence, regularly posting thought-provoking articles and participating in industry-related discussions. In each public appearance or published article, she made it apparent she was an independent consultant available to new clients while positioning herself as a knowledgeable industry leader, keeping her potential clients engaged and informed.

When Jan finally met her prospective clients, they saw her as an authority in her field. They were eager to hear her insights and were open to her suggestions.

Ultimately, Jan’s demonstration of authority made winning and retaining the healthcare provider as a new client significantly easier.

Take-Aways Critical to Success                                             

  • Authority stems from credible expertise and can be a potent persuasion tool.
  • Symbols of authority, such as qualifications, testimonials, and case studies, enhance credibility. Don't make prospects search; promote your authority.
  • A key to projecting authority and persuading others is to use clear, confident communication with active listening that reflects the client's needs and shows your ability to solve their problems. 

Take-Actions Critical to Success                                             

Scenario 1

You just met two high-potential prospects at a local industry association dinner. Both seemed very interested in your work.


As you drive back home that night, you remember reading that about 80% of B2B buyers check for the background of professionals on LinkedIn. You relax knowing that last week you updated all of your LinkedIn profile during the Critical to Success course, and you added two case studies you did in the course homework.

Scenario 2

Showcase your expertise when negotiating a consulting proposal.


As a consultant, you are confident in your expertise and authority in this niche. You use a consultative sales process that starts with a "Strategy/Discovery Session," brings in decision-makers with an "Executive Briefing", and finally presents the proposal. By the time you reach the presentation of the proposal, you have won over the prospect.

This consultative selling process is natural. The proposal is just a final confirmation.

Scenario 3

You're facilitating a workshop and need to gain the confidence of people in the workshop.


After you welcome everyone and state the workshop's purpose, it is a good time to share your background and experiences related to the topic. Explain how you have “been there and done that many times.” Tell students what you will be covering in the workshop and the outcomes they can expect, and relate a few stories that show how those outcomes are important.

Your Call to Action                

Take a moment to consider what you are doing to build authority for your consulting.

Grab a notecard or your phone and list what you must do to improve your authority. Post the list a second time in your calendar a week from now to remind yourself to get it done.

  • Is your proof of authority out there where prospects can see it? Does your LinkedIn profile and website show your credentials, testimonials, and case studies?
  • Are you engaging in industry forums, pursuing continued education, and showcasing success stories?
  • Are you speaking at local industry monthly meetings?
  • Do you give free Lunch 'n Learns or webinars to prospective clients to show your skills?
  • Have you written and published articles or books? Using the AI tools taught in Critical to Success courses, your productivity can be 200% to 300% higher.
  • Are you taking any courses or certifications to stay at the top in your field? Many free courses are available through MOOCs in a wide range of fields.

Authority is critical to winning clients. It sets you apart from the competition, positions you as a leader, and prompts prospective clients to choose you over others.

If you aren't using some or all of the above methods to showcase your authority, it's time to start.

Your authority is your first step toward becoming a trusted partner with a long-term client.

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