Do You Hate Sales? Try the Mango Test

Have you ever had a bad mango?  The first time I had a mango, I was in junior high school, and my best friend’s mom gave it to us. I was unimpressed and assumed that all mangos were mealy and tasteless.  I didn’t realize that it just happened to be a bad, 1980s grocery store mango.  The next time I had a mango was when I studied abroad in Thailand.  WOW, what a life-altering, world spinning difference!  Turns out that I love mangos, just not the bad ones. Consider that the same faulty logic may be tainting your relationship to sales. I find that most lawyers have a gut-level aversion to sales, which is a rather serious impediment if you are trying to make partner or get your new solo practice off the ground.  As with my mango experience, maybe you don’t really dislike sales. Maybe you just dislike the bad version of it. I can hear you thinking, “but most sales people are pushy, manipulative and annoying.”  Maybe.  However, human beings tend to see what we expect to see, and generally miss evidence that contradicts our beliefs.  Therefore, it is also possible that you are simply not “seeing” the good sales people for what they are. A good sales experience doesn’t look or feel like you just got “sold” on a product or service. Rather, it feels like you benefited. You came out ahead. You have something now that you didn't before. Think about when you call a customer service number. Sometimes, they have an idiotic little phone script and the agent is trying to upsell you on some product when all you want to do is get your $%^& bill straightened out. Mostly, you want to punch those people in the face, or at least I do.  In contrast, when you call and the customer service representative listens to your problem and actually offers a product or service that could help you, that is an entirely different experience. Although, as a lawyer, you are selling a much more sophisticated service, the principle remains the same.  This leads to the question, how do you do tell if you are exhibiting the good or the bad version of sales?  I present to you, the mango test:

Are you focused on your agenda or theirs?

If it is the customer’s agenda, then that is the good version of sales. If not, lets just say you are having a bad mango moment.  Like many important things in life, this is simple but not necessarily easy.  Understanding their problem deeply may take time, empathy, asking the right questions, etc.  There may be complex emotional, financial, political, strategic and other aspects to the issue. Nevertheless, if you are really and truly focused on the client and his or her agenda, you will practice getting all the information you need and look for ways to create solutions.  Furthermore, once you have offered your solution, you will accept their decision to hire or not hire you.  After all, it is about them and what they need; so there is no need to get attached to the outcome.  Developing the ability to have these conversations  effectively and gracefully takes practice, but it is rooted, simply, in the ability to be over their in the other person’s world.  So, if you are wondering if you can bring yourself to do sales, try looking instead at what it would take for you to provide the kind of sales experience to your prospective clients that you would want for yourself.