Yes, it’s that time of year when boys and girls all over the world anxiously await the arrival of that special person in the suit who will bring them gifts and joy to finish out the year.
No, I am not talking about Saint Nick, the jolly old elf. I’m talking about the company executive who shows up in December to give away discounts to clients to close deals and make sales quotas.
You know, “Help.”
“Help” is a noun, not a verb, as in “here come ‘Help.’” It’s a term used by deal makers when their management decides they need to get involved to “help” push the deal “over the line.”
In fairness, sometimes a deal team can use an objective perspective to close out some nagging issues that the parties can’t seem to resolve. In December, however, Help usually arrives as a result of a gaping hole in the sales forecast that needs to be filled with some fast closings.
When I worked for a software company, where December 31 was the end of the fiscal year, the rumblings about Help would begin soon after Thanksgiving. If I heard that Help was coming to see me, strains of the theme to “Jaws” would start playing in my head: a pounding rhythmic pulse of foreboding.
The client, on the other hand, hears, “Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus…” That’s because for the client, Help was an executive with a big bag full of goodies that the executive couldn’t wait to give away. And then the executive would crow about being the one who closed the deal.
If all it takes to close deals is giving away money, management should send an ATM into the negotiations instead of an experienced deal maker.
The problem with Help is: not only does the client get a bunch of money in exchange for nothing in return (which trains the client that it can get a bunch of money in exchange for nothing in return), but sometimes Help results in a bad deal.
All deals need time to develop. The more the parties talk, the more they learn about each other’s real underlying interests, challenges and goals for the transaction. Sometimes, as the deal takes on its shape, the parties find out they are misaligned and decide to hold off for a while. When Help forces a deal by throwing money at the client to get a signature, all the ingredients for success may not be mixed in and the engagement may suffer.
When making a cake, for example, one usually mixes everything together and then bakes it for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. You can’t say, “We don’t have time. Let’s fire it up for 10 minutes at 1,000 degrees and we’ll worry about sugar later.” That’s a recipe for a bitter outcome. Given the right amount of attention and time, a good deal will rise and a bad deal should fall. Unless it gets Help.