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Southeast | mcauchi@sandler.com

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Money does grow on trees: 

Pain Trees and Referral Trees  

One of my President's Club alumni recently asked my advice.  To protect his privacy I shall refer to him as Jim.   This is what Jim said:


"This is not a case of selling to the CFO (decision maker) rather than the Head of Legal.  It's more complicated than it seems.  At least I think so.  Convince me otherwise if you can.

The issue I have in mind is where we need the Head of Legal to buy into the idea of membership of our network as a benefit for him and for the company in which he/she works.

We can't go to the CFO first as he will only sign off if the Head of Legal expresses an interest.

The Head of Legal will not be sufficiently interested in the Network if he is told to join by the CFO.

This approach reduces the chance of securing annual renewals in due course.  Whereas where the Head of Legal 'gets it' and persuades the CFO to fund membership we get over 90% renewals.

It's in this context that I pose the challenge:

My prospect is sold on the idea but has to get sign-off from the CFO, how can I help my prospect get a 'yes'?"

What follows is my response:

"Jim, you  probably already know buyers buy for their reasons not yours.

In Sandler we teach that “Prospects never argue with their own data”. But they will argue with yours, until you're blue in the face.

So the simple answer lies in what you have asked and learned, not in why you think they should buy and what you tell them they need to do or ought to do.

The high level answer to your question really is very simple:

When you asked them what they would need to see or hear from you for them to buy from you now, what did they tell you?

I know you haven't done this from your question, but firstly I hope you see the value of asking presumptive questions.  These are where you already know the answer will be "No" or "I haven't" and the question assumes that they are already doing whatever it is you're about to sell to them.

I'm sure it's not the case with you Jim, and forgive me as I don't know a way not to sound slightly preachy, but your wording suggests to me where the source of your problem actually lies:

….”where we need the Head of Legal to buy into the idea of membership of our network as a benefit for him and for the company in which he/she works.”


“This approach reduces the prospect of securing annual renewals in due course.  Whereas where the Head of Legal 'gets it' and persuades the CFO to fund membership we get over 90% renewals.”

If you want the sale but don't need it you're in a powerful position.  If you need it, you're toast.  If you act as if you need it, you're toast.  If you give them any impression that you are in the sale to make money as your primary objective, you're toast.

Let me draw your attention back to the first point I made, that buyers buy for their reasons not the salesperson's reasons.

So here goes the Spanish Inquisition!

When you mapped out the “pain-trees” for each of the main decision makers and mutual influencers involved in the:

  •        Decision to buy

  •        Funding the decision to buy

  •        Using Your Service

  •        Specifying your service

  •        Recommending your service

  1. What specifically have you done to learn about their precise reasons to:  buy from you; do nothing or go with a rival solution to their problems?

  2. What is their motive for wanting what you have NOW?

  3. What are the conversations they are already having relating to problems you can help them to fix today?

  4. Where do they feel pressure?

  5. What structural tension is there between the players you need to influence?

  6. What does the political landscape look like?

  7. Where are each of the protagonists in their job, their career?

    • Are they in start up mode?

    • Or their honeymoon period?

    • Are they in “continuation” where the main goal is modest upward growth in profitable revenues?

    • Are they in turnaround or headed for turnaround?

    • Are they in recovery?

    • How are they measured? Targeted? Held accountable?

    • Who does their role impact? If they do a good job, who is affected? If they do a bad job, who is affected?

  8. Why does what you offer have any bearing on these priorities?

    • So what?

    • Who cares?

  9. Why is what you are offering important to any of the key players, stakeholders, influencers, specifies or recommenders?

    • Compared with all the other priorities they have to decide upon and make investment decision over, where does your proposition fit in their hierarchy?

    • If you aren't a top priority now, what will cause them to perceive you as a top priority in future?

    • What needs to change?

    • What needs to happen?

    • What do they need to see, hear or feel to change their position?

    • How are they measured?

    • Held accountable? Held responsible?

    • What do they measure? Why do they measure those metrics?

    • What do these results affect? Bonus? Career? Job security? Hitting targets? Potency? Influence and power? Enjoyment? Status?

Experience tells me that the problems or reasons for being frustrated with someone higher up, usually become the daily pains of someone lower down the food chain.

So I refer you back to the old favourite of the litmus test I like to run any opportunity or request past. If the project fails on this test chances are there's no real opportunity there anyway.

  • Why is fixing their problems with their legal advisory services of any importance to:So what? Why do they care about this at all? Really

    • The CFO?

    • The Head of Legal?

  • Who cares?

  • Do these two care?

  • Do the people they report to care? Do they people they serve, care?

  • Why?

  • So what?

  • Who Cares?

Do you have an examples of the kind of problems the Legal Network can help them solve? Are they able to give you examples of where the lack of this service has caused them to fail to meet their clients expectations? Have they given bad or incomplete advice? Have their clients even noticed? 

  • Why do they care?

  • So what?

  • Who cares?

  • Does their opinion matter?

Before you go into meet the key decision makers you have identified, are you absolutely sure there is no one else in the cast of characters who you need to have onside?  Any hostiles you need to neutralise or make impotent? Any neutrals or unknowns you need to bring on side?

Who do you know in your network who can say the right things in the ears of the people you want to become your sponsors?

The rules around believability are as follows:

Buyers believe other buyers in their industry and with a job title above salespeople.

Buyers believe (journalists!!! from) trade publications and editorial staff over salespeople.  Buyers don't believe salespeople … generally.

So your views, opinions and beliefs about what is good for them are tempered with a healthy dose of scepticism and doubt about anything that comes from your mouth.

Try this word association test. What are the first words that come to mind when I say:







and last but not least ….









Do you see what I mean? So the lesson here is buyers love to buy but hate to be sold. So, NEVER EVER look, smell, taste, sound or behave like a salesperson or they will lump you into the category of pushy, overpaid clown whose sole interest in solving my problems is his commission and not solving my problems.

On that note, if you want more, you're going to have to put your hand in your pocket and pay me for the road map of how you win this business Jim.

You have all you need in this for you to make a damn good stab at it. And just enough to be dangerous if you don't follow the system I taught you so long ago.

You decide how important this is for you to win. If you want even more help, know that we will be talking money and the meter will be running. If you're good to go with this response, I'm a happy man.

Please remember me to your lawyer friends who might be facing similar problems in developing their sales.


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