Posts Tagged "quoting statistics"

Lies, Dam Lies and Statistics

Lies, Dam lies and Statistics

How to make statistics interesting…..


Are You the Authority?

You are speaking to a prospective client. You are making your pitch for business. As part of your presentation you quote some figures to support your argument. The question is, ‘Do you quote the source of the figures or do you leave that bit out?’

What is the answer? Well that all depends. What are you trying to achieve? Are you setting yourself up as the expert or are you after another authority to back your argument.

Today I was working with Peter as he prepared his sales pitch for new business. He is an expert in trading commodities (iron, oil, wheat etc). During his presentation he said,

‘BHP tells us that in the last 10 years, China has used more steel than the U.S. has used in the past 100 years. You need to be in commodities to be part of the action.’

So should you quote the figures as coming from BHP or leave them off?

What is the effect of quoting BHP in the figures? Quoting BHP as the source will set them up as the expert. They will be the people with the information and you will be seen as ‘the messanger’ that knows the information. This puts you in a subordinate role and not the true authority.

To overcome this, we changed the sentence to read,

‘In the last 10 years, China has used more steel than the U.S. has used in the past 100 years. You need to be in commodities to be part of the action.’

The difference is subtle, but profound. Without the reference to BHP, Peter became the expert. He was no longer playing a subordinate role to BHP. Peter was now the one to be listened too and the centre of authority. If he is pressed on where the figures come from, he could state that the figures come from BHP. This would act to further reinforce his position.

Should this be the tactic that you use all the time? Certinally not. Once you have set yourself up as the expert, you can use other authorities to support your position. By using other authorities to support your stance as an authority you are strengthening your position. However, if you do it the other way around, you will be seen as trying to achieve your authority by riding on the coat tails of others.

What if you are not an expert at what you are trying to argue? What do you do then?

This is where you can draw on other authorities to establish your credibility (as opposed to authority). By stating what you believe and then having others support your position you gain vicarious authority. Alternatively, you can state how others support what you are saying. This authority will never be as strong as setting yourself up as ‘the’ authority, but it will be better than having no authority at all.

Do you agree?



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