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There are two roles in every sale. One role pretty much guarantees that you'll be a spectator, waiting in frustration for a decision. The other delivers sufficient value to prospects that they cooperate with you and keep you involved throughout. The good news is that you get to choose which role.

The Presenter-Persuader. This is the role that most lawyers default to. They may not consciously choose it; they just don't know another way. Many inherited it from colleagues who were in the habit of it.

In the worst example of this role, you present your services to a prospect, extolling the virtues and advantages of hiring you. It's all about you. Hopefully, this failed approach is long in decline. If you're still doing this, stop immediately. It doesn't work, it wastes the prospect's time, and it pretty much locks you out of future contact.

Today, the more common version is where you've identified a problem or a need, and you present the solution to that need. Let's say that you've done a really good job, understand that need very clearly, and have correlated your solution directly. Your discussion is relevant and welcomed by the prospect. You confidently urge the prospect to implement the solution (and hire you to do it). 

Much better, right? But, what happens afterward? Too often, the answer is that time elapses and you hear nothing, so you send an artfully phrased email that, boiled down, asks, "Have you made a decision?" or "What's the status?" You're on the outside looking in, nose pressed against the glass that separates you from the decision process. You wait for a week, or two, or three, and try to come up with even more artful phrasing for the same "What's the status" question. 

Why doesn't the prospect respond? Because they haven't made a decision yet, or aren't ready to share it. They have no reason to speak with you because you've already presented what they believe is everything they need to know about the solution, and you have no role in their decision process. Now they're considering it (and possibly a few alternatives, including doing nothing at all) periodically, interrupted by the many other things on their plate. They'll get back to you when they're done. You're trying so hard to phrase your update requests artfully because your instincts correctly tell you that the repetition risks irritating them if it's interpreted as nagging.

The Decision Facilitator. This is a much more beneficial role for you -- and for the prospect. You begin as above by discerning a problem that affects members of a class. An industry is the best example. Unless the company you're speaking with is an outlier, this problem likely affects them now, will affect them in the future, or they've already faced it and solved it. 

Request a 20-minute phone call to learn their views about the industry problem. The phrasing of their comments will reveal whether they're speaking purely categorically about how the problem affects companies like theirs, or whether they're also referring to their company, specifically. If the former, thank them for the insights and ask who among their contacts might also be able to offer informed opinion. If something they said, or how they said it, causes you to suspect the latter, confirm it directly: "It sounded like you were referring to your own company. Did I hear that correctly?"

If so, probe to define the significance of the problem in strategic, operational, and economic terms (the Cost of Doing Nothing). Unless the problem causes unacceptable consequences, they don't have to solve it, so they won't. There is no opportunity here, so abandon any sales initiative. Shift them out of your personal sales pipeline and into your electronic marketing nurture pipeline.

If your probing causes the prospect to conclude that the consequences are more significant than they'd previously been aware of or considered, you advance to stakeholder alignment, which is the decision-facilitation process itself. Here, you set aside your self-interest; you're not trying to get them to say "yes." Instead, you're solely helping them make the best informed decision possible, as expeditiously as possible.

This mindset, which must be genuine, will enable you to conduct yourself the same way you do after you're hired, where you don't try to persuade clients to embrace one solution option over another. You might advise why one option is more advantageous, but you're not invested in the content of their decision, only its legitimacy. This demonstrated objectivity earns trust, which eliminates the barrier that the Presenter-Persuader role erects: If you're trying to get me to say "yes," you're trying to convince me to take an action that I know is good for you, but I don't yet know is good for me. Until I resolve that question, I erect a barrier between you and me. I have to. That's what keeps you on the outside looking in.

In contrast, the Decision Facilitator role keeps you welcome in the decision process because you're contributing to the goal of making a good decision, and you've shown me that that's all you care about. I don't have to exclude you, because you're helping me, not yourself.

Which role makes more sense to you?

Mike O'Horo

If you think you'd be more comfortable and successful in the Decision Facilitator role, and you'd like help understanding it, learning it, and applying it, schedule a free introductory call with me to discuss your situation and concerns, and see if it's right for you. (I'm a Decision Facilitator, so you don't have to worry about me trying to convince you to hire me.)