Can you Argue Both Sides? Think Like a Lawyer?

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You may already know that I practiced law in a prior life. Some of my clients like and appreciate it, but I do get eye-rolls and my fair share of good-natured ribbing. I get it. When it comes up in conversation, I usually add that although the practice of law wasn’t for me, I absolutely believe, with no regrets, that I have benefitted a ton in my sales career from law school.

One story often comes to mind. When I was a sales manager years ago, I was reviewing an opportunity with a member of my team. We needed to figure out our next move. I asked her, “And, what do you think their reaction will be” to her suggested course of action. She replied that she had no idea. I made a prediction and suggested she do some research and put some thought into that expected reaction so she would be prepared.  We strategized some more and prepped for the next call.   Long story short, she won the deal, and I happened to be right with my coaching. When she told me she added, “It must be that law degree, you seem to always be able to think around corners on these deals.”

I took the compliment with a smile. She was right. For me, it was my law degree. For one thing, Law professors constantly ask students to be prepared to argue either side of the law when discussing a legal issue. That way, you can learn “the law” from all angles – seeing into every corner of an argument. Her comments have stuck with me over the years. I always tried to work this aspect of my legal education into my sales and sales management career, and for the last 12 years in my consulting business.

How do smart sellers think around corners and argue both sides?  They anticipate the next few and even several moves in a sales process, not just the negotiation. Smart sellers anticipate and prepare for roadblocks or objections prior to their arising. They know their processes cold and have unearthed the buyer’s buying and evaluation processes.

So, how can you hone this ability to “think around corners” like a lawyer?

Sellers need to constantly ask, “Can I advocate 100% for my proposal from my buyer’s point of view?” In other words, can I, as the seller, make the argument for them? Whether you are competing against the status quo or real competition, someone is advocating for another (or the same) course of action. If you can’t argue truthfully, with integrity, that the best course would be to buy your stuff, you have some work to do.

Below I’ve listed some questions to help you to figure out if you are selling like a lawyer; you may have some more:

  1. Have you unearthed what is truly going on that has led them to evaluate your stuff?
  2. Do you understand their current situation as well as or even better than their own team?
  3. In concrete terms, is there agreement that you are offering good value?
  4. Do they see your differentiators as game changers that will improve their present situation more so than the status quo or the competition?
  5. Do they see you as a good implementation partner?
  6. Have you explained how your team understands completely how your products and services will help the buyers achieve their objectives?
  7. Are you sure about the answers to all of the above? How do you know you know? Did you ask?

Please understand, though, that the lawyer-seller analogy is imperfect.  We often hear that good lawyers never ask a question for which they don’t know the answer, at least in court.  Good sellers, however, should follow Stephen Covey’s fifth habit:  First seek to understand, then to be understood.  How?  Ask open-ended questions for which you don’t know the answers.  By the way, they also teach lawyers that Covey’s habit is a good strategy pre-trial, just not in the courtroom.

SalesReformSchool: Food for Thought

Recruiting is not one of my offerings, I know plenty of folks that do a great job finding and filling sales openings.  From time-to-time, though, I have had clients ask me if I know anyone that could fill an open executive, manager or sales slot. Similarly, I often get calls or emails from individuals looking for their next gig.  These are usually past sales workshop participants or their friends or colleagues, or even loved ones. I’m more than happy to help.  While the economy seems to be good right now, there has been an uptick lately in people reaching out to me who are looking for their next gig. I’ve had several conversations with good people looking for something better: Sales VP-types, inside and outside sales managers and inside and outside sales people, and even some skilled in sales operations or enablement.  Are you hiring? Let me know. I may know somebody.

SalesReformSchool: Extracurricular

There really is only one meaningful extracurricular coming up.  Kickoff is at 6:30 PM eastern time. – Are you ready to #RISEUP !!!falcons

Go Falcons and Good Selling!

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P.S.   Did you like this post? Any comments you’d like to share?  Please post a comment below or  email me.  Also, please consider sharing this post!

Through SalesReformSchool, I am available to you for Sales Process Design, Sales Messaging Creation, On-boarding/In-boarding Sales Team Workshops, Keynote Addresses, Facilitation, Group or One-on-One Coaching, Pipeline Reviews and other Sales Management Consulting.

Through SalesReformSchool, I help individuals, teams and enterprises improve sales performance.

Posted in Building Trust, Closing, Sales Leader, Sales Management, Sales Process

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