Why does the word ‘sales’ carry such negative connotations?

Why does the word ‘sales’ carry such negative connotations?

By Paul Richmond, Managing Director

Lawyers, accountants, and other professionals often get squeamish when anyone mentions “sales.” Selling seems beneath our roles as “trusted strategic advisers.” We picture cheesy used car salesmen and get nightmares. But here’s the thing: avoiding sales talk too much limits how much value we can bring clients.

Rather than shunning sales, professional advisers should focus on understanding what clients need, offering tailored solutions, or connecting them with the right solutions. Don’t call it sales if that makes you queasy, call it “business development” or “client solutions”.

Essentially it is good customer service.

Why the sales stigma?

Here are some reasons why professionals likely dislike the term sales:

  • Status mismatch. Pushy sales don’t match the whole “expert” reputation we try to build.
  • Value confusion. Our work should speak for itself, right? If we’re good, we shouldn’t have to beg for business.
  • Sales training is lacking in academic programmes. They didn’t teach “Selling 101” when we were studying or qualifying. This leaves ‘rainmaking’ an unfamiliar skill.

This scepticism does a disservice to both advisers leaving revenue on the table and clients missing out on helpful solutions.

Open up conversations

Lots of professional firms silo into narrow niches. M&A lawyers. Employment lawyers. Specialised consultants. Niche accountants.

We get so focused on the specific trees that we miss the client’s whole forest and new growth opportunities.

Smart rainmakers ask about the big picture – where’s your business going in the next few years? How will you get there? What could derail you? What keeps you up at night?

This shows where extra help could be useful down the road.

Listen first, sell later – be curious!

Rather than immediately promoting your own services, listen intently to identify what your clients or prospects’ true needs are before determining if and how you can help.

Resist talking about yourself or your firm or taking over or ‘talking over’ the conversation. Listen carefully, the solutions will become apparent.

Match services to emerging needs

Instead of closing deals on services we already have, let’s shape answers to clients’ emerging problems. We’ll probably find some needs outside of our sweet spots…

Expand your referral network

If a client requires capabilities outside your wheelhouse, proactively refer them to other qualified providers rather than losing the opportunity.

Reliable referrals demonstrate commitment beyond your financial gain – the foundation of trusted relationships. The most effective rainmakers recognise their responsibility to guide clients to the solutions they need, even if that means sometimes referring work to others.

So, can we get past the sales dirtiness and focus on client needs? Our expertise is useless if we aren’t willing to apply it helpfully!

Interested in finding out more?

Check out my video here about this topic and the rest of my video series here that ask important questions about BD and how to develop your business:

  • How do you make business development a habit?
  • How do you identify and measure lead activity?
  • How important is it to ask for referrals?
  • When is the best time to ask for a referral?

If you want to find out more about how we can help you and your firm to create a clear framework of activities that guarantee effective BD opportunities and build confidence, then email Kate here or give us a call at 0333 7722 061.