We are all in Sales!


salesperson20 years ago, as a young consultant with jet brown hair, I sat opposite a potential client in a large bank.  I’d listened attentively as he described the organization culture in detail. He chronicled the issues along with his personal GPS, how he intended to get through the maze of problems faced. Then, he asked: “Well, what exactly are you selling?” I was somewhat taken aback.  I didn’t really see myself as ‘selling’ anything – at least not something that was pre-packaged and ready-to-eat. If the truth be told, I had an in-built snobbery that consulting was somehow ‘above’ selling. I’ve since witnessed exactly the same response with CEO’s of not-for-profit organizations who almost resent being questioned by potential funders about their organization or its achievements.



In the bank case detailed, I muttered some stupid makey-up answer about developing customised solutions. You could almost see the shutters dropping down over the client’s eyes. Guess what?  I didn’t get the job. Lesson Learned:  It’s up to me to tell the client what I can do, not up to the client to uncover my ‘greatness’.


Last Week:
It happened again last week. At the end of a long briefing, a potential client said: “So, what is it that you are insanely good at?” He followed almost immediately with “What are the 3 jobs that you are most proud of?”  Despite the earlier ‘lesson’, I still didn’t have a great ready-made answer. I’d like to think that this partly indicates humility; I don’t like people who boast about their achievements and try not to be too smug. But, in sharp contrast and much more arrogantly, I felt like saying ‘did you check my CV/LinkedIn profile/read my stuff’ – as if he needed to do more homework!  Wow. In a single mental step I’d managed to outsource the blame. My lack of marketing skills was somehow the client’s fault! What Happened? He never phoned, he never wrote.


Hard to Describe:
The job of an Organisation Development consultant has always been difficult to describe with precision. When people ask me what I do, 10 minutes later they stumble away, bored and still confused. Sometimes, if I’m not going to meet the person again (e.g. someone sitting in the next seat on an airplane) I might even chance a ‘white lie’ and say Management Trainer or something that’s easy to grasp (perhaps “Recovering Academic”?). Of course I could say that I have good judgment or tell people that I’m in the business of fog clearance.  But, facedwith a vague answer like that they are likely to run out the door or have me mentally certified rather than wish to extend the conversation.


Be Clear:
Here’s the rule: If you are confused about what you do, others will also be confused. Get yourself a ‘killer pitch’. Then, grow up and start to use it.  We’re all in Sales. Get over it.




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