I have a Phish hangover: scratchy throat from the smoke (“ah, the peat”), deaf in one ear, and “Light” reverberating on earworm replay. It was nice to see a major band come to my little town on a throwback tour of smaller and more intimate venues. It gives one a chance to see the performers up close, take in and appreciate fantastic musicianship, and have a good time with a few thousand of my friends in music. Sometimes smaller is better, and getting a close up view of how things are done can give you an appreciation for the larger machine at work. I tie this to a recent foray into the Sales cycle where I was able to see and hear things in which I don’t usually participate. Yep, I went on a Sales call….
So often in my job, a view is taken that the “Field” is a bunch of faceless folks who would sell their mothers to make commission. Maybe so. But they are also my clients, and as part of their team, it is my job to help them “always be closing.” So, when a rep couldn’t make it to an RFP pitch, I volunteered to go along. Not only did I learn quite a bit about the nuts and bolts of what our folks do, I am better able to put actions to words in assisting my clients respond to these requests.
The Customer is a global Insurance and Finance entity, with very specific needs and detailed wants. They didn’t want a pitch about what a company could do in our world, they wanted to know precisely how we could match their requests. At first, the room was taken aback that we had brought a “lawyer” to the pitch. However, any reservations were allayed by the fact that, as the negotiator for the deal (were we to be downselected) it was most helpful for the Customer’s representatives to pepper me with questions about our contracting processes and timing of negotiations. They ended up quite happy that I attended, as they were able to “go to the horse” as it were, with questions that received real time answers, and not a sales pitch.
I cannot stress enough how helpful it was to attend this meeting. I was able to experience, first hand, the sales cycle from inception. I now have an understanding of the pressures that our reps face when dealing with prospective customers. An RFP pitch is akin to a beauty pageant in firm life. You don’t know what other people have said or sold, and so you go in with your best shot and hope. Not only did I gain appreciation of the difficult job that our main source of income (sales) must endure day in and out, I gained insight into how I can better assist in the RFP process — by doing a deep analysis of the questions asked, and crafting better responses.
I encourage you in-housers to step out of your comfort range in the OGC, and try to gain a real understanding of what your company does, and how. If that means going on a sales call, then by all means. It can only serve to help you serve your clients that much better.
After two federal clerkships and several years as a litigator in law firms, David Mowry is happily ensconced as an in-house lawyer at a major technology company. He specializes in commercial leasing transactions, only sometimes misses litigation, and never regrets leaving firm life. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.