Can you Argue Both Sides? Think Like a Lawyer?


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!

Adam signature

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.

Today’s Lesson: The Implementation Story


Many of you are trying to close deals with your prospects this week and next to finish the year or quarter on a high note. So, I have a question: Have you included an implementation plan discussion as part of your buyer’s evaluation of your company and its offerings?

I learned years ago from Michael Bosworth’s CustomerCentric Selling that sellers lose to No Decision, Inc. or an actual competitor because the buyer doesn’t embrace at least one of the following stories: Usage, Value or Implementation.

Many sellers have now been trained to show buyers how to use their offerings and the value of that usage – think ROI calculations and Cost v. Benefit tables. But, what about the implementation story?

When the buying organization feels unsure in their (and your) ability to deliver or only have a vague notion of how to achieve success, your opportunity is at risk. Often, your buyers will hide this squishiness out of embarrassment or mistrust. In their minds and possibly in their internal meetings, they may be saying,

“I understand what this is, I understand it’s value,

I just don’t understand how WE can get there.”

So, they decide to do nothing or worse, go with a competitor who has gained agreement on the implementation plan, even if only at high non-detailed level.

What can you do NOW if you find yourself wondering whether your buyers understand the implementation story?

Try the following.

Look at your current open opportunities and ask these five questions:

  1. Have I shared a customer implementation success story?
  1. Do my buyers know how THEY are going to get from their current situation – where they are now without you and missing out – to successfully reaping the benefits of my stuff?
  1. Have I worked with the buyer’s implementers to outline and gain agreement on expectations and processes for both sides for their implementation?
  1. Are questions #2 and #3 documented, shared and agreed to?
  1. Do the main influencers and implementers believe all of the above?

If you have five “Yes” answers, good for you! If you don’t, and your buyer hasn’t told you they are ready to buy, perhaps you need to request a conversation to focus on the implementation.

And by the way, you should also consider the implementation discussion a potential disqualifying tool: If you don’t have five “Yes” answers, AND they haven’t given you a solid verbal buying signal, AND they don’t feel a need to have an implementation conversation, it’s time to question whether you will ever close the opportunity.


SalesReformSchool Food for Thought

Before ultralight weight laptops and notes apps that seamlessly flowed through all my digital devices, I took notes in internal and sales meetings on yellow legal pads. Spiral notebooks or even fancy paper-based notebooks never worked for me because I’m left-handed.

Then, a few years ago I switched to digital note-taking either on my iphone or laptop for utility – my handwriting is awful and I didn’t like having to type my notes up for emails, CRM or otherwise. I did, however, feel at times that something was lacking or missing in my notes and understanding.   I also recognized that using an electronic device while in person on sales calls was much colder and impersonal than pen and paper. Was I hurting rapport (already a worry for me for other reasons)?

After reading this article and this one, I’ve returned to taking handwritten notes for in person meetings. It’s been a couple months now, and although I can’t measure the difference, I do feel my interactions are richer. Also, by slowing down and having to type up my handwritten notes, I have a better understanding of my conversations. Think about it.

What do you think?  Type or Write?

SalesReformSchool Extracurricular

Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or just a winter break – whatever your fancy, you are likely going to get together with friends or family soon. What are you going to do? How about a game? I have a friend – you know who you are – who says he can’t be friends with someone who won’t play. A little drastic for me, but I get it. Tons of fun. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you may be embarrassed, but all in good fun.

Happy Holidays and Good Selling!

P.S.  I’ve had some interest lately in providing keynote addresses for year-end or new year kickoff programs based on some of the things I’ve written you about. Email or call me if you want more information.

P.P.S. Did you like this email? Any comments you’d like to share?  Please post a reply or  email me and 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.

Today’s Lesson: Three Sales Archetypes

Only 54.6 percent of sales professionals produce enough revenue to meet quota according to CSO Insights 2015 Sales Compensation and Performance Management Study.

And, it’s the rare prospect that actually wants to hear from a sales rep.

What’s a senior executive to do?

In many cases, the answer to the above double head shaker has been spending good money on tools and consultants to fill your funnels with “Good Leads.” Yet, when I ask leaders if they are closing more business or doing so in a repeatable and intentional way, they answer “NO “ to one or both questions.

What’s going on?  What I have found is that sales reps are not prepared for the rest of the sales cycle.

BEING REPEATABLE AND INTENTIONAL IN SALES means you are prepared to succeed.

In working with clients, I’ve identified three areas of sales preparedness:

  1. Process – the steps to take in an opportunity from first initiation to close;
  2. Messaging – the conversation models or scripts and recap templates utilized within each step of the process; and
  3. Behaviors – the sales actions and mannerisms sellers exhibit in an opportunity that map to the company culture.

And unfortunately, unlike Meatloaf, two out of three is bad.  You may recognize these “two out of three” archetypes on your sales team.

The Auditor follows an excellent process and messaging but doesn’t care to exhibit excellent behaviors.  This seller risks being viewed as robotic, insincere or worse.

Example – The Auditor exhibits poor listening skills increasing the probability that the buyer feels she doesn’t care to “get” them.

Then, there’s the Surfer Dude
This seller talks a great game with excellent messaging and behaviors – everybody loves this guy, but he lacks a real process.  Surfer Dude risks losing his bearings in an opportunity and being out of alignment with buyers. He often fails to qualify or close or even closes prematurely.

Example – By not documenting the buyer’s evaluation process, the seller has a limited view of the buyer’s decision-making steps and timing.

Finally, you may have some Gamblers on your team. The Gambler has excellent process and behaviors but rather than prepare, she likes to just roll the dice.  The Gambler seems to always be winging-it.  They risk missing out on building trust or figuring out the current situation.  By just rolling the dice, the Gambler sometimes gets lucky, but too often loses to “no decision” or a named competitor.

Example – the unprepared seller who forgets to ask questions about the value of their solution to the buyer may discount too much or fail to have the buyer make the purchase a priority.

So, what are you doing to prepare your sales force?   Are you arming them with a best practices sales processes and messaging?  What are you doing to ensure their behaviors are in line with your company culture and values? By not checking on all three components of a professional sales force, you risk enabling your Auditors, Surfer Dudes and Gamblers.

SalesReformSchool Food for Thought

Like it or not, we all have to put together slide decks for sales meetings.  Here’s one of the best posts ever on constructing a winning sales deck.  And here’s where you should sit.

SalesReformSchool Extracurricular

I love to cook.  I dazzled a recent dinner party with these. And impressed at another with these.  Oops, perhaps these two recipes should have been posted above in the “Food for Thought” section.

That’s all for today.

Good Selling (and eating)!

P.S. Did you like this email? Any comments you’d like to share?  Please post a reply at SalesReformSchool or  email me and 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.

My son Max has been working hard putting together a skating/dance party for tomorrow evening to benefit an anti-bullying charity  – Kidpower International.  Yes, he’s a great kid, but he’s really doing this to fulfill his “mitzvah” requirement for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah.  Think of it as a quid pro quo for having a great party and getting lots of gifts from family and friends.  Maybe that’s too cynical.  The requirement also reminds young men and women (around 13 years old) that they have an ongoing duty to help the community and repair the world – Tikkun Olam.
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Success Story: In-Boarding

reprint from 2006*

Leadership Strategies – The Facilitation Company is a leader in facilitation training and meeting facilitation. With a network of over 200 facilitators under contract, LSI provides organizations with dynamic, professional facilitators who facilitate executive strategy retreats and problem resolution sessions and lead training classes in facilitation, leadership and consulting skills.

Despite the organization’s high quality products and services and its strong competitive position, early in 2005 several factors led Wilkinson to conclude that the organization needed to transform its salesprocesses and approaches.

  • Year-over-year revenue was stagnant.
  • Most of LSI’s new business was coming from Internet inquiries and call-ins rather than from proactive contacts by the sales team.
  • Too often the sales teams “winged-it” on conversations, which made turning lookers into qualified leads, hit or miss.
  • Product and sales training focused merely on the features of the offerings and not sales process or tools to use when working through an opportunity. Salespeople were left to their own devices to figure out a sales process.
  • With everyone doing their own thing, coaching reps was difficult. For example, some reps had trouble identifying where opportunities were or what steps needed to occur for opportunities to close. They would have great meetings or calls, but the opportunity just seemed to peter out. Other reps, though, needed help with prospecting. They felt they lacked the credibility to make calls outside their comfort zone of HR professionals.

Wilkinson recognized that LSI’s fast growth had come from “early adopters” and that the organization sales had stagnated because they had not successfully penetrated the major market buyers. While the “wins” were usually buyers who understood intuitively how to use LSI offerings, the “misses” were often losses to either an internal training team or “No Decision, Inc.” With these misses, his client relationship managers either had trouble positioning offerings in ways the buyer would grasp or had trouble cost justifying the engagements.

Wilkinson needed the following capabilities to ramp up sales:

  • A customized best-practices LSI sales process, from first initiation, through customer success. This process had to contain pipeline milestones, deliverables and needed to be 100% auditable for sales management in coaching sessions.
  • Sales messaging that would give the client relationship managers the tools to have quality, consultative conversations which would be mapped to the pipeline milestones established in the sales process. Since the core of the sales process is the sales interactions (conversations between client relationship manager and buyer), the core of the conversational, consultative messaging included:
    • How to obtain targeted buyer’s business goals and explore needs;
    • Actual diagnostic questions for each targeted buyer, that would help the client relationship manager extract the buyer’s issues that are currently preventing them from achieving those goals;
    • How to help client relationship managers build value by architecting the questions for them that would uncover the financial impact of the issues; and
    • Then, product positioning that would help the buyer build a vision on how the use of Leadership Strategies’ offerings would help them achieve those goals.
  • Tools and know-how for managers to review each client relationship manager’s documentation of their selling efforts in the form of customer correspondence. In doing so, managers would have visibility into each sales process and could monitor activity levels and competence in key areas with development in specific areas as needed.

LSI contracted with consultant Adam Shapiro to gain the above capabilities. In June 2005, Shapiro worked closely with the company’s sales and marketing leaders to develop the sales-ready messaging for LSI key products and services. A month later, Shapiro taught a customized workshop to all customer-facing personnel at LSI, using the actual sales-ready messaging tools the reps would employ post-workshop.

Wilkinson has been thrilled with the results. “We had an incredible September – the best in the company’s history. September was followed by the best October and November in five years.” One customer relationship manager who was having a difficult time closing opportunities and having executive interactions, “has been lighting up the sales board,” says Wilkinson.

“LSI has terrific offerings for increasing the organizational effectiveness of employees and delighting customers,” Shapiro says. “Their customer relationship managers just needed a way that described the offerings in terms of usage so the mainstream market would get it.”

LSI now has a repeatable, auditable sales process that gives salespeople confidence during their sales interactions and a roadmap for success.

“Adam has done a terrific job for us,” says Wilkinson. “By taking the first month to customize our messaging, he was able to deliver training that was far more impactful then anything we had experienced before. He has superb consulting and training skills and diagnoses issues quickly. Because he lives the selling approach he espouses, he served as an excellent model for our customer relationship managers and sales manager. We were so impressed with Adam’s skills, we extended the contract to have him sit along side our sales manager during the first month of opportunity reviews. Through the value he continually delivers, he truly serves as a trusted advisor for our organization.”

*NOTE:  Admittedly, this success story is a re-post from a few years ago.  It was lost in the transition from Typepad to WordPress.  I continue to work with Leadership Strategies providing strategic and tactical sales and marketing consulting and training.


No, I am not cursing at you!

What I do want to point out is one of the most often overlooked sales closing tools.

I know, “every one knows the key to increasing sales is a good cost v. benefit analysis.”  Then, ask yourself if you’ve ever had a terrific sales presentation, felt the deal was going to close, slacked off (maybe decided to play a round of golf or angry birds) and then NOTHING HAPPENED?

No Angry Birds until after you've inserted #$%E! into your Cost v. Benefit

Why?  Maybe because you were so confident the buyer would buy, that you neglected to put together and gain agreement on the Cost v. Benefit of your prospect using your solution.  The prospect did not feel attached to your capabilities and either chose to stay pat or worse, go with a competitor.

Notice that I did not call it a “return on investment”.  That expression is so yesterday.  ROIs seem so far in the future that buyers don’t believe them.  Even worse, “return on investment” might remind them of their meager personal investment returns and make them shudder.

Alternatively, Cost v. Benefit is upfront and factual.  “Here’s the cost.  Here’s the short and medium term benefit using the information you told me.”  It may be semantics.  So what.  Inituitvely, a cost v. benefit sounds more reachable and less risky than an ROI.

The tricky part is the benefit side of the equation. How do you get there?  THAT IS THE SECRET SAUCE!!!  You get there early in the sales cycle by asking the right questions to gain clarification of what’s actually happening within your prospect’s environment that your capabilities could improve.

Once you both understand and agree on the frequency the challenge or issue arises (“#”), the amount of dollars overcoming the challenge is worth (“$”), and the percentage of time the challenge occurs or percentage of individuals who suffer with the challenge (“%”).  It helps then to know whether the prospect is emotionally connected to improving the situation or circumstances (“E”).  If you are not sure, then ask.

For example:

“How does it make you (your team, the effected group) feel?”

“How badly do you and your team members want to fix …?”

This gives you and your prospect an idea about the emotions of the situation. At times, all the hard dollar gain in the world may not help you close the opportunity if your prospect isn’t connected on an emotional level to your offering or solution.




Even better, plan out the questions prior to the call that will draw out value or benefit, questions that will lead to your gaining agreement from the prospect on #$%E! of their current situation.  Now, what are you going to do next?  Take aim at some sheltered pigs or have a #$%E! conversation with your prospects?

Good Selling.

Five Questions to Ask if your Deals are Not Closing: Who, What, How, When, and Why

Last week, I led a two hour seminar at a client’s annual meeting of partners and agents – think 40 B2B sales people and executives.

The President had asked for 2 hours on closing skills to be presented to a group of sales professionals and executives at partner/agent companies.  We talked about what she meant by that and came up with “Five Questions to Ask if Your Deals are Not Closing:  Who, What, How, When, and Why”.  I put together an interactive and fun seminar that included four exercises.  I had 50 people going through group brainstorms, role plays and Q&A.  They seemed to both enjoy it and benefit.
I posted my presentation to Slideshare.  You can watch it below.
  If it’s hard to follow due to it being mostly pictures, I’d be glad to walk you through in a virtual gotomeeting room.   In addition to this ppt, I used a 4 page handout for exercises I spread throughout the two hours.

Good Selling.