Get Out of Your Own Way and Assume the Sale

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They came to see you in order to buy what you sell. They phrase it in different ways: “I need to know my options,” “I want to understand the situation,” “I have some questions,” but …

  1. They have a problem.
  2. You’re in the business of solving that specific problem.
  3. They set a time with which to speak to you.
  4. They want the problem solved.
  5. They’d do it themselves if they could, but they’re in your office because they believe they need your help.

These folks are ready to buy

You meet with them, you help them understand the risk exposure of leaving the problem unresolved, you explain the benefits of resolution, you define the path to the solution, you do a cost/benefit analysis for them.

They came through the door wanting the problem solved. You’ve now offered a solution.

They still want the problem solved. They are in your office. They are ready for action.

And you look at them and you … pause … stare at them with concern … look quizzically … and ask them what they want to do.



They didn’t go to the pool for a swim, to the spa for a massage, to the car repair place for a tune-up. They came to a lawyer to get a legal problem solved.

Assume the sale–they made the choice–it’s you!

Suddenly you shift gears from this confident leader who just defined the path to victory, into a person who needs permission to go forth and fix the problem at hand.

Suddenly you’re acting as if taking action is optional. They didn’t come to you for optional. They came to you for a solution.

If the problem is real and painful, if you have the solution, then it’s time for you to lead the way.

Think of it this way: when you sit down in the restaurant it’s not a will I eat or not decision. It’s a what will I eat decision. The waiter doesn’t present a choice between (1) Eat and (2) Don’t eat. No, no, no–the waiter announces that “The fish is marvelous today,” and asks “Would you like it with lemon butter or chili sauce?”

Waiters are often the source of my best illustrations. I spend an inordinate amount of time in restaurants.

Waiters lead the way to the sale

I’m in a restaurant in a city with potable water–Cape Town. In fact, the water, although in short supply, is known for tasting good, as well as being safe and clean.

The waiter approaches our table immediately after we get seated. “Let’s get you started with some water,” he suggests. “Would you prefer still or sparkling?”

“Still,” I respond, not really thinking about the question.

My wife jumps in. “Tap water will be fine,” she asserts. “With ice,” she adds. She’s been quite insistent about that since she turned fifty. She’s hot all the time.

Her refusal to answer the waiter’s question by picking from “still or sparkling” saved us a few bucks, because the waiter was about to sell us an expensive bottled water. The tap water is free.

The waiter assumed the sale and was poised to increase our tab. Lisa was one step ahead of him, while I was oblivious.

The parking guys do it too

The parking lot and street parking guys in Cape Town are really clever. They rush up to you as you prepare to park. They’re actually quite helpful, especially when you’re trying to parallel park on a busy street.

They jump out and hold up traffic, giving you signals for when to turn the wheel, go forward, back up. I wonder if they could tell how awkward I felt, steering from the right hand side of the car.

Let me be clear: these guys are not official parking attendants. They are random dudes, sometimes homeless, who are making a living by getting tips for helping with parking maneuvers, guarding cars, and pointing out available free parking spaces.

They wear orange safety vests, they hold clipboards on which they jot down your name to make things look official, and they scribble random notes on scraps of paper, like they’re doing some kind of record keeping. They tell you they’ll keep an eye on your car for you.

When you leave the parking spot they come rushing over to help you back into traffic, and of course collect a tip as you prepare to drive off. “We’re volunteers,” one explained. Okay. ‘Volunteers.’ Whatever. I gave him some change.

They don’t ask you if you want help parking, they don’t ask for permission to guard your car, they don’t inquire before they stop traffic for you to pull out–they assume the sale. They just roll along acting like it’s normal for you to pay them for the work they’re doing.

The wildlife resort folks do it too

We left Cape Town to go see some animals in Namibia. We had a great time in the national parks and saw lions, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and twenty other kinds of animals. It was awesome.

Then we went to a private game reserve. Basically, it’s a high-end resort with expensive rooms, a nice restaurant, and lots of expensive activities built around the animals they care for, in this huge area surrounded by a fence.

We walked into the reception area after driving down the twenty-kilometer driveway from the entrance. The drive into the resort involved stopping at three gates used to keep the animals (mostly leopards and cheetahs) away from the guest rooms.

The front-desk attendant greeted us, then seated us in the perfect spot facing the mountain view with giraffes strolling by just 50 meters away. She served us a fruity iced beverage, and a big guy in a safari outfit approached and sat down with us.

“We have you booked on the leopard game drive this afternoon,” he said.

I nodded. That nod cost me $100.

“Tomorrow morning, we’ll wake you at 5 AM, serve a light breakfast, then take you on the cheetah walk. We’ll have you back for a full breakfast at 9,” he continued.

I nodded. That cost me another $100.

“At 11, we have you scheduled for a tour of the Africat Foundation, to see the facilities, the clinic, and the young carnivores waiting for release.”

Again, a nod, and $100 more dollars. Thank goodness the breakfast was ‘free.’

There was never any hesitation. There were no questions. There was no reluctance, on his part or mine. He assumed the sale. I didn’t realize I had a choice.

In fact, I didn’t want a choice. I went to the game reserve to see animals, and he told me what he was going to do to make that happen.

You can assume the sale too

Assuming the sale is normal. It’s reasonable. It’s why the prospective client came to your office. They want a lawyer.

The folks in my illustrations above did the right thing. They sold me what I wanted and needed. They’re in the business of selling the things–bottled water, parking assistance, guided animal tours–that I came to buy. They assumed the sale, I went along, everybody wins.

The buyer can always object, like my wife did with the tap water, or the buyer can go along. But there’s no requirement that we encourage the buyer to rethink a decision they’re already inclined to make. Let them have what they want, so long as it’s the best thing for them.

Had the bottled water waiter asked “Expensive bottled water or the free stuff?” I’d have seen the decision differently. Had the ‘parking guy’ stopped and asked me if I wanted help, instead of guiding me into the space, I’d probably have said “Nope.” Had the safari guide told me that I didn’t have to go on the safari, I might have missed out on an amazing opportunity in my state of indecision.

Assuming the sale isn’t underhanded, it’s not sneaky, it’s not unethical. When you assume the sale, you’re helping the client get what they want. You’re letting the momentum that brought them to you carry them forward to getting the problem solved. When you assume the sale, you’re helping the client achieve the outcome they came to you to achieve.

Get out of the buyer’s way

The end of the initial client consultation should not wrap up with “Would you like to hire us?” That’s like asking the restaurant patron, “Do you want to eat?”

The end of the meeting needs to wrap up with “We’ll send them the letter and demand the cash by wire transfer,” and then the action needs to start. They’ll nod, that’ll be another $100, and the safari will be underway.

They came to see you in order to buy what you’re selling. Get out of the way and let them buy it.

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