Reading: Finessing Copy

What is finessing?

There are several common types of finesse, including:

The rubber Ruler:

Consultants often choose the reference point or measure that will make them look best. The consultant who has been on the job for two months and says “This is my first year” makes herself look good by choosing years as her unit of measurement instead of months, weeks, or days. Similarly, the head of a firm who tells a prospect from a bank that “20 per cent of our business over the past year came from banks” is employing the same technique, if 20 per cent of the firm’s engagements, but only 5 per cent of its revenues, came from banks.

The Lowest Common Denominator:

In this case, the consultant uses general facts instead of specific ones because they make him look better. For example, a consultant selling to a manufacturer of high-precision aircraft parts may refer to a previous client as “another metalworking company” instead of stating explicitly that the company made common household screws. “Another metalworking company” suggests a common denominator between the prospect and the past client, while “a wood-screw manufacturer” makes the difference clear.

The Withheld Fact:

A consultant will sometimes withhold some facts while stating others. “Have you ever done any work in our industry?” a prospect asks, and the consultant responds that two years ago he helped the XYZ Company design a compensation program for its sales force. He chooses not to burden the prospect with the fact that the program was never implemented.

The Two-Faced Fact:

A consultant can use words that have two meanings, on the chance that the prospect will take the one that is most favourable even though it is not true. She can state, for example, that “in two of three projects of this type, our clients were able to reduce their costs more than 50 percent.” She wants the client to believe that such savings have accrued in two thirds of the many projects the firm has done, when actually the firm has done only three.

The artificial Link:

Sometimes by carefully juxtaposing two unlinked statements, a false impression is created. The consultant may describe one of his past engagements for XYZ Company and follow it up immediately with a brief description of another project for ABC Company that his firm didn’t work on. He makes no claim that he worked on the second project because he didn’t, but the client is likely to infer that he did because of the close sequencing of the descriptions

The Lie:

Sometimes outright lies are employed. A consultant may say his firm has more employees than it actually has to make it look more substantial. Another consultant, pressed to cut her fee, does so, saying that she has reduced the engagement’s scope to arrive at the lower number. In fact, the service she intends to give is almost the same as that offered at the higher fee. She has lied because she does not want to appear to have overpriced the project on the first quote nor seem so desperate for the work that she will take a lower margin to get it.

(The Consulting Common Body of Knowledge) defines finessing as lying i.e. “any intentionally deceptive message which is stated. “Far more freedom to bluff exists when negotiating the terms of an engagement than in any other area”.

Source: Finessing the Sale by Charles F. Harding CMC (Journal of Management Consulting Volume 8, No. 4, Fall 1995. Copyright for this Article is retained by

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