‘Sell’ May Be a Four-Letter Word, But Business Development Isn’t

The term, four-letter word, generally refers to profanity. Interestingly, ‘sell’, is a four-letter word. You probably won’t hear it during a yelling match between adversaries so it may sound harmless enough. However, when it comes to professional services firms building their practices, ‘sell’ is definitely considered to be a blasphemous four-letter word, and for good reason which is why we stay well away from it, and so should you.

Many professionals such as accountants, lawyers, engineers, and consultants often recoil at the thought of having to ‘sell’ to a client or potential client. Do you blame them? Consequently, the majority of professionals are resistant to the notion of doing that to their clients or potential clients. Yet, at some point in their career, they are required to win work, and this frequently creates cognitive dissonance, frustration, and anxiety when they are asked to build a practice.

Disappointingly, there are many people in (and outside of) professional services who perpetuate traditional stereotypes of ‘selling’ which are aggressive, manipulative, and not appropriate in a professional services context. These techniques might work in door-to-door, transactional sales but are completely wrong and inappropriate for a professional services environment. Consequently, many in professional services either avoid or reluctantly engage in business development and typically achieve lack lustre results.

We know most professionals don’t become lawyers, accountants, or engineers to sell; yet at some point in their careers, they are required to help win work as part of their role and the success of the business. Which is why we advocate against selling and instead, help them to position themselves as trusted advisors in order to grow a thriving practice. Our philosophy is to win work without being salespeople.

How is this done?

Without a doubt, relationships are the lifeblood of any firm, whether it’s creating new ones or expanding existing relationships, it’s important to do so with confidence and in turn, effectiveness.

We know that business development coaching supports professionals to authentically initiate and advance relationships from first coffee to trusted partner, and everything in between. Our Business Development coaching approach is based on the premise that if you put the client’s needs ahead of your needs, you’ll succeed. Put another way, Business Development is about helping clients succeed.  Ultimately, we help you embed high performance business development habits that make it more enjoyable to grow a practice.

If you’re thinking of using a four-letter word, when it comes to Business Development, think ‘help’ not ‘sell’.