You have a call scheduled with a prospect, and you think it looks like a pretty good opportunity for a sale. You’re trying to decide how many, and which, of your colleagues to take with you. I’d like to say, “It depends,” but most of the time, it doesn’t. The default answer is “none.”

But, “Wait,” you say, “don’t they have to be on the call to demonstrate relevant expertise beyond my own.” No.

Value = Expertise = Product

If their primary value is their expertise, they’re products, merely something to sell. “M&A” is a product. “Employment” is a product. “Litigation” is a product. One inviolate sales discipline is “Never introduce products prematurely.” A first call is premature in the extreme.

Set aside longstanding pitch habits and look at your opportunity through a different lens.

First, what is this purported opportunity based on? If it’s merely that they buy what you sell, it’s not an opportunity. It’s just a pitch, and likely unwelcome, or at least unmemorable. Unless you have a compelling reason for someone to change law firms or add another one, they don’t have to do anything -- and that’s exactly what they’ll do.

Foundation = Problem or Opportunity

The call you scheduled should be based on some problem or opportunity that the buyer acknowledges as being present and significant enough to warrant time and attention. The problem might be a business problem faced by their industry. The opportunity might be greater operational efficiency or cost improvement for the Legal Dept. Without either of these, you’re probably wasting your time. Why waste that of your colleagues, too?

Let’s assume that this call is with a component supplier to the auto industry, and it’s based on the acknowledged problem of having a workforce that will be much too large for the projected decline in car ownership due to ride-sharing and the rapid evolution to autonomous vehicles. You think that your firm has some useful thinking on how suppliers can smoothly downsize that workforce over time without compromising product quality or triggering workplace litigation.

You’re thinking that you should include Labor & Employment practice colleagues who are expert at shrinking workforces. That’s understandable, but misguided.

Purpose = Prove that a Sale Exists

The purpose of this initial call is to qualify whether or not this is a real sale. To do that, you must learn the:

  • Company-specific version of the industry problem
  • Strategic-, operational-, and economic consequences
  • Identities of those who have a meaningful stake in the problem
  • Identity of the person who, for his or her own reasons, would champion this idea within the company
  • Champion’s motivation

Without these, you don’t know if there’s an actual sale available to win or lose. This prevents you from drilling expensive and frustrating dry holes.

Can you see how difficult it would be to follow a disciplined line of inquiry with others on the call? They’re in the habit of talking about their experience and expertise, but that’s premature product talk, which will derail your sales investigation. Until the sale is qualified, the products that you might ultimately sell are irrelevant.

Not for Amateurs

The other reason is that it’s inherently difficult for two or more people to conduct a sales investigation by phone. This is true even for two seasoned sales professionals who’ve done this together before. Lacking the visual cues available when face to face, you have to be inordinately attuned to nuances and subtleties, and be able to redirect each other without attracting the buyer’s attention. It’s next to impossible for unschooled amateurs.

There’s a time and place to showcase the firm’s human assets. This just isn’t it.

Mike O’Horo

Acquiring and mastering business development skill is a three-part mission: Education, Training, and Coaching. Each produces a different outcome, and should be accomplished using different tools at appropriate cost.

  • Education produces understanding, awareness, context, but no skills. Like law school. The Dezurve content library lets you accomplish this easily, conveniently, and at trivial cost.

  • Training is the actual doing. It produces practical skills available to you when you need them in the real world. RainmakerVT online simulations and video courses let you learn and make your mistakes privately in our virtual world, at modest cost.

  • Coaching produces tangible success by guiding you to apply successfully the skills you learned.

Click on the links to learn more about each component. Contact me to discuss your situation and options.