There are markets where sales is little more than a numbers game. Make enough calls, knock on enough doors, ask the question over-and-over, ignore objectionns, and you’ll close some deals.
But you won’t build many relationships.
And that means that next month…or next quarter…or next year you get to start all over again. Call. Knock. Ignore. Persist.
In a recent keynote before the Legal Marketing Association, best selling author and speaker Dan PInk shared the results of a survey of 7000 individuals who were asked to say the first word that came to mind upon hearing the word SALES.
Without seeing the results, you know what dominated the list. It was words like Pushy, Hard, Sleazy, Slimy, and (my favorite) Yuk.
This distaste certainly isn’t because we don’t like to buy. Most of the time it isn’t because we aren’t seeking information about products or services.
It is, at least to a significant degree, a visceral reaction to a pitch that is little more than one more call made by someone playing the numbers game. We get enough of them. Every day.
In the stereotypical cases all that is required is tenacity; and though this is a valuable characteristic, when it is the foundation of a churn-and-burn strategy, it isn’t going to help build a vibrant professional services practice.
So, visceral responses aside, here are four characteristics that have been present in the best professional service sales and business developers I’ve known.
They are PEOPLE people. Over the long haul — through market dips and drastic turns — if this is just a job…if you don’t like people that will eventually come through loud and clear. All things being equal (read if you’re competing with another excellent lawyer) the market is going to opt to work with a qualified professional who is easy to work with. If you don’t like them, you can’t fool enough prospects enough of the time to build a practice that will last. Be prepared to move from one commodity to the next.
They derive satisfaction from assisting. The best business developers find ways to deliver value to those with whom they work — whether in the context of a billable matter or not. I know a lawyer who, upon learning that a client’s child was looking for an apartment in his city, spent his weekend scouting out locations to recommend. Not billable. Not conditional. But at the heart of why the attorney is a good business developer.
They are Connectors. Define your network as those who need the specific service or product you offer, and your network will almost certainly be too small. Service providers become trusted advisors, in part, because of a propensity for connecting dots…facilitating solution without respect to whether the problem is in my practice or not.
They have super powers. No leaping buildings in a single bound here. But while scores of excellent advisors can see every facet from one perspective, rainmakers see the big picture. Even in the midst of chaos, they listen between the lines, hearing what others miss. Master these powers and the struggle to differentiate your firm or practice becomes much less daunting.
One of Pink’s best sellers is titled To Sell Is Human. There are other important characteristics, of course. But one of the reasons these four are on my list is they go a long way toward communicating humanity — the kind of humanity that connects and motivates.
You can fake it and do okay. Maybe. But if you want to be a better business developer, work on these characteristics. Build your plan of action with these as foundational elements. You will be onto an approach to practice development that you can actually stick with. One that will deliver.