Post 95: Credibility

I’ve been thinking about credibility this morning, in light of a couple of recent pitches in which the vendors concerned asserted that their products are really, really important and/or useful.

They didn’t seem very credible, though, a judgement I make largely by backing my own credibility.

I’ve been hanging around this IT caper for more than 12 years now. That accumulated experience means, I hope, that my judgements are well informed.

So when pitches reach me that claim a breakthrough when I am aware of several other products, some a few years old, that do the same things the ‘new’ product says are a breakthrough I feel comfortable making the call that I do not need to take matters further.

The other pitch was a good old security scare story but the vendor could not tell me what was being protected against.

So why was I willing to rank my credibility ahead of the credibility built into these pitches? Experience and self-belief is one reason.

The other was that the pitches did not contain enough information to make me feel like I lacked the credibility/experience to make a judgement.

So it seems to me a good pitch needs to include buttressing elements to communicate why and how a product or idea expands my world view.

What would work as a good buttress?

Saying “this is really important” will not work. Everyone says their stuff is massively important.

Forget self-conducted surveys. Journalists are suspicious that they only ever prove what you want them to, as Stephen Withers has recently explained.

Independent data will help. But there is so much data out there that it is very hard to take it seriously as an authoritative source unless the source is unimpeachable.

Analysts? They’ll help. But of course they hate endorsing products. And no-one cares where you are on the magic quadrant. In fact I consider a top-right position on a magic quadrant as a sign of competence, seeing as every vendor claims leadership. Those elsewhere on the quadrant are less-than-competent.

Users? The bigger the better. I know from experience that referencability is often the result of deep discounts.

Ideally, I think, building credibility needs the latter three elements to really stamp a pitch as having weight, at least for me.

That’s because my experience is one of my key assets. People pay me to access it. Adding to my experience takes a lot more than a pitch saying a client’s products are ever-so-worthy.

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