Sales or professional service

Whether you’re in a law firm, accounting firm or consulting firm, as you rise up to Partner status, your major contribution to the company is deemed as sales. Nevermind you’ve accumulated lots of experience and is able to solve very tricky issues for clients, if you fail to bring business in, you have failed at your role. This is a challenging thought and it made me wonder whether the end point of growth in professional service and being able to serve clients well is just sales? Or is that all a false dichotomy to begin with?

How can we set up sales situations such that it is less adversarial, where we can be really win-win rather than see it as a zero-sum game. In some sense, it is true that a client can still get some kind of service from another firm, a competitor whereas when they walk away from you, your firm gets nothing. So it is very easy to see it as a win-lose kind of deal. And moreover, the client will be putting in process and structure to try and get the best deal out of their vendor. That is simply the way the mature market economy is set up. Can there be really different rules and different ways of working to contextualize situations in ways that are less tense and difficult?

Can sales be driven by the desire to serve and not to profit from the client? How can sales be set up such that the joy of service pays and profit is just a byproduct? I think the missing piece in the puzzle is really around the purpose and the conviction of the service to be rendered. When one is truly able to deliver superior service and product, with a strong faith that it will satisfy the clients’ needs, then the sales situation will be more of a win-win deal. The client loses out by walking out because you are the one who is able to bring the solution to the client.

The question is how do you know? Perhaps that is for another day.

You don’t stand a chance

When you participate in a lottery, you stand a chance to win. If you don’t buy the ticket – well then you don’t. I don’t believe in buying the ticket however, because I don’t want to play in that game of chance. The odds are stacked against me – and I’d think to myself ‘you don’t stand a chance’. Because buying the lottery ticket serves me no other purpose other than the chance.

Most other things in life are not like that. We participate in tenders knowing we won’t win. We come up against strong sports teams knowing we will lose. We go for auditions knowing our performance probably won’t make the cut. Why do we do all that? Not because of a blind hope but because we achieve more than just getting the chance when we take part in those. We leverage that opportunity to showcase ourselves, to show up, to prove to ourselves a part of our identity – as a musician, a dancer, as a professional who can do the work. We also use the chance to connect with audience, or prospective audience. Maybe it’s just one person, the judge, but it’s still an audience whom you did not previously have.

And that’s why we have to care enough to take action about sustainability, to change the way we consume, to speak up against actions that sets us on a course of no return, and ask for leadership that can lead us into a future we actually want to be in. Because it is saying something about ourselves, it is connecting with our future, and those same people who are going to live in it.