How to sell to smart people
For business development experts working in professional services, trying to convince senior lawyers or accountants of the merits of your plan can be a daunting - even confronting - experience. But the ability to sell your ideas to your firm’s partners and senior managers is essential if you want to be effective in your role.
In fact, it's so important that at a recent event I hosted for APSMA, a panel of some of Australia's top business development professionals rated it as the most important skill a business development professional could have. And conversely, they also felt it was the one skill most lacking among their peers.
Their comments made me think of my own list of what BD people need to keep in mind when selling to partners in law or accounting firms.
What do you think? Have I left anything out?
1. Don't get intimidated. The people you need to convince will be good at what they do. But don't let their titles or intelligence put you off. You should know more about what you’re doing than they will, so be respectful and confident.
2. Acknowledge their smarts. At the same time, don't talk down to them. Also let them know that you're impressed by their achievements. Just don't suck up.
3. Be across the detail. Be prepared for probing questions. After all, if you're dealing with a senior lawyer, they probably can't help but pick holes in what you tell them. It's what they do.
4. But don't get bogged down in it. That said, don't get into arguments that simply don't matter. Acknowledge their concerns but keep your eye on the big picture.
5. Eat your own dog food (walk your talk). If you are advising professionals on ways to build their reputation, pursue a target, position an idea, or ask for feedback – then you should be doing the same/ leading by example.
6. Test drive a timesheet. Put yourself in their shoes for a month. It may change the way you use email, schedule meetings and follow up on projects.
7. Be aware of how you land. There’s lots of good tools to assess your work preferences and communication style and how to adapt to others. Whether it be Myers Briggs, DiSC, HBDI or TMS Global, using these insights early in your career can save you a lot of time and trouble.
Prodonovich Advisory offers mentoring and coaching services for BD experts working in professional services firms. This includes specific advice and training on how to sell your ideas to partners and decision makers.