Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford

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Co-Selling Works - November 19, 2016

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 help.

 

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.

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