There is an old quote from Abraham
Lincoln that I often translate to sales, “He who represents himself has a fool
for a client”. In other words, in legal practice, you can’t always go it alone.
You may need assistance or guidance from time-to-time, especially if your own
“life” depends on it. And so goes the same in sales. I translate the Lincoln
quote at times to mean “He who tries to close the deal by himself has no one to
blame if he loses the deal by himself”.
The world is full of lawyers, some good,
some average, and some just plain bad. The world is also full of sales people,
some good (the ‘A’ level sales person), some average, and some just plain bad.
What makes a lawyer good or a sales person ‘A’ level? It is a simple answer to
write down, but not necessarily simple to act upon: the willingness to ask for
This is often a hard lesson in one’s
career to learn, yet those of us who’ve been at the sales game for a while,
have learned the lesson the hard way. We’ve all been there. We’ve all tried to
be the cowboy who rides in on his white steed and saves the day by closing the
deal all by ourselves. It is an awesome feeling when it happens. But, what a
terrible sense of failure when it doesn’t. And, to make matters worse, many of
those times when it doesn’t come your way, there may have been an alternative
by asking for help.
I was asked recently by a friend to
speak with his now adult daughter. She has been out of college for about a year
and a half, in a sales role, and is struggling internally with how to approach
management. She is fearful that she will be turned away or that by asking for
guidance or help would be a sign of weakness in the eyes of her superiors.
Taking a small step back in the story, I’d
be remiss if I didn’t share that Colleen has been rather successful in her
short time as a sales person. She has learned quickly how to cold call, write
proposals, and is embracing consultative selling more and more each week that
goes by. She has had a small taste of success, but now has had her first real
taste of failure. Colleen lost a fairly large deal she believed was well within
her grasp. And, she is struggling with the reason why.
Colleen, for all intent and purpose,
did everything right. She counseled the client off and on through the pre-sales
and sales process. She brought in experts for review calls with her prospect.
She went so far as to tell me, “Mr. Latchford, I dotted every ‘I’ and crossed
every ‘T’, I just don’t know why they didn’t go with me”. I pushed her a bit in
reviewing the steps and then it dawned on me. She didn’t ask anyone in her
organization for help, as in anyone from her management team.
It was obvious from the beginning of the
sales process that Colleen, although accomplished already, was young in her
career. I’m not talking about her age, but rather her experience in her role. She
did almost everything right, but she never asked anyone from the management
team to be involved in her sales process, not even from an introduction
standpoint. In her mind, she should have been able to close the deal on her
own, and was fearful that her VP of Sales or the President of the company would
find it disappointing that she’d need their help, or that she couldn’t handle
it on her own. She couldn’t have been more wrong – and it cost her the deal.
The prospect wrote a pleasant thank you, but explained the competitor made it a
point to introduce senior leadership as a part of the sales process.
Asking for help is NEVER a sign of
weakness. Rather, asking for help is a sign of maturity. Your senior leadership
team does not need to be inundated with mundane requests for help ten times per
day, but will never say no when it really counts. Colleen learned a hard lesson
by not asking for help, but I'll bet she doesn't let that happen again. Don’t be afraid to approach your
superiors, that’s what they’re there for.