Learn to take yes for an answer

As a grad at AMV, I once saw Peter Mead give a fantastic talk on the secrets of great account management.

As you might expect, it was full of inspirational stories, practical advice and the odd expletive.  But surprisingly, for such a paragon of persuasion, there was very little about selling work.

In fact, if anything, Peter seemed to be positively against the whole idea.  He noted that the best account people don’t have to be overly pushy, because they have a much more valuable quality: integrity.  He advised all his young charges to work on that, and building trusted relationships with their clients, in which good work would flourish naturally.

Apart from anything else, he noted, the temptation to over-sell work was often completely counter-productive: aggravating clients who would otherwise have been well-disposed to an idea, to the point that they actively rejected it. And at this point, he used a phrase which I’ve always thought was absolutely brilliant. Talking of the tendency of some account people to keep selling even after the client had expressed their general approval – and, noting the potential for everything to unravel because of this – he said:

“Learn to take yes for an answer”.

I hope you think this maxim is as powerful and wise as I did?  And if so, I’ll stop selling.

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