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"There is no market for pitches." This wisdom appeared in "The Cluetrain Manifesto," one of the first free e-books, published during the late '90s dot-com era. Its truth has remained constant to the present. Legal service buyers find lawyer pitches tedious and a waste of time. At about the 2:15 mark of this video you'll read and hear verbatim comments from buyers, whose loathing is unambiguous.

There's a better way. 

In a recent edition of his SalesLinks Bulletin, Jack Carroll described three stages in the evolution of a sales career, which I paraphrase here:

  • Showmanship:  sophisticated presentation skills that dazzle (but do not often win the business).

  • Concealment:  well-prepared, interactive questions that elicit the right responses from the prospect, but are often a stacked deck, i.e., leading questions that serve to confirm your view of the issues and problems, not the prospect's.

  • The Absence of Salesmanship, characterized by a relaxed, well-prepared person who abandons technique, listens actively and reacts in real time.

This explains my antipathy toward presentations, or pitching, which, even when done well, is mere showmanship.  

Those new to using questioning skills in selling tend toward concealment, but no matter how cleverly, they are acting ON the buyer, not WITH her. Only a person with sales maturity and integrity (the ability to begin by accepting the possibility that this buyer's interests may not be served by buying from you) can conduct an honest sales investigation.  

This is the person who wants to get "caught" selling, because the buyer will recognize that the goal of his sales investigation is to learn where she wants to go and help her get there, wherever "there" is. Or, if what she needs to do is something he can't help with, he'll say so and try to steer her to the appropriate solution, or at least get out of the way and let her get on with it. But he will always help her achieve clarity, and that's very valuable to any executive.

Concentrate on using your business maturity to be relevant, useful and valuable. The sales and rewards will follow.

My father's advice

Dad was a lifelong salesman. He wasn't much for making pronouncements or offering unsolicited advice. One thing he said to me has stuck with me. Early in my career, he offered this guidance for how I should conduct myself:

"Conduct yourself in a way that you can walk down the street with a potential customer, bump into a former customer, and leave those two alone together for a half-hour without anxiety."

Works for me.

If you'd like to learn why getting a decision -- even "no" -- is so critical to your success, read our free e-book, No Decision: The Blind Spot That Prevents Lawyers from Doubling Their Income.