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We’ve all seen it: After a lengthy sales process or competition, the client selects your firm; you win.  However, weeks turn into months and the work never materializes, or does so at a trickle relative to what was discussed.  What gutted your apparent sale?

This usually occurs when the purchase is driven by “druthers” rather than imperatives. The client intends to take the action discussed, perhaps even should do so. However, if it’s not something they must do, i.e., if the Cost of Doing Nothing is low, it can be a long time before they get around to it, if ever.

The solution?  At the outset of a sale, when a prospect says, “We need a law firm to do X” (and your firm is great at X)." Really? What happens if they don't take that action? Before leaping to demonstrate your prowess with X, test to see if it's imperative that they satisfy this need.

Thank you for thinking of us. But, what’s driving this? Why do you need to do this?

Explore the objective impact on strategy, operations, finances and people. Then ask how long those negative conditions have been present. If a long time, why must they do something now?  If the described impact seems modest, ask them to fill in the blanks:  “While understandably irritating, this problem seems to have limited impact. What am I missing?”  

Before investing heavily in getting chosen, first make sure that there is something worthwhile to be chosen for.

Caveat:  There is another possible explanation for the post-selection trickle. The purported selection process was an inside job, i.e., to satisfy a powerful internal influence (perhaps arranged by someone in your firm) the buyers felt obligated to “select” your firm for appearances’ sake. However, the buyers know that your champion will rarely check to see how much business the company actually sent you. And even if she does check, what can she do? Take the client to task for not sending the work at an acceptable pace?

Mike O’Horo

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