What if you Didn't have an Expense Account?

I spent over a decade selling in the medical device industry during a time when the US Department of Justice became very interested in us.  Regulations were put into place, and things changed almost overnight.  There was no longer any such thing as “business as usual.”  You couldn’t so much as leave a branded pen with a nurse in many institutions!

While I don’t wish that on anyone, I’ve paused to think many times about how that situation made me focus on what was really important in selling- and it wasn’t a nice meal or a round of golf.  So let’s take a step back and think about this…

Would You Spend Your Own Money Any Differently?

Chances are you wouldn’t, and here’s where the problems start.  No, I’m not worried about your company’s profitability.  I’m talking about you convincing yourself that what you’re doing is actually worth what you’re spending on it.  Taking it a step further, you end up doing things that you don’t need to be doing just because you’re not on the hook for the expense.  Is that really the most productive thing you could be doing right now?  Is that really going to help you make your next sale?  Or are you looking for ways to do things that the company will pay for because it looks enough like ‘work’ to pass the snuff test.  Business-related or not, if you wouldn’t spend your own money on it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it at work.

Would You Get In Front Of As Many Customers?

I hear this one all the time.  “I’m trying to get John out for a drink, but we can’t line up our schedules.”  Take the hint, he doesn’t want the drink.  If you’ve had more than a few back and forth messages about setting up beers after work, you could have already had the discussion about your product.  You’ve got an open line of communication, but you’re using it to ask for a couple of hours when you only really need five minutes.  John would give you ten minutes on the phone or at the office, but you’re asking for more than he can give you.  Yep, beer goggles work in this way too…

I got asked recently where the best bar in my town is.  I told them it was in my basement.  There’s nothing on the menu I don’t like, I don’t have to drive home, and you can’t beat the price.  The bartender’s a really good guy too.  I may occasionally meet out for a drink, but it’s not often.  What you’re really asking me for is to give you time I would ordinarily give my family.  You’d better have something good, but if I get the impression it’s that good, I’ll find time during the workday to meet with you and I’ll drink coffee or water.

Would You Be As Effective?

What’s more responsible for your success, your acumen or your corporate credit card?  Sure, there’s a cost to doing business, and there are still a lot of professionals who stop what they’re doing to eat from time to time. They might as well do so with you, but don’t take your eye off the ball.

By and large, the Mad Men days of three martini lunches are long gone.  Quite frankly, the martinis aren’t that intriguing.  Attention spans are shorter.  Real buying motives need to be addressed more quickly, or you’re going to lose to someone who actually understands the buyer.

Even if you’re in a position to ‘wine and dine’ your way to business (I HATE that phrase), how much are you prepared to spend?  If a fancy dinner is the only reason you won the business, then you’ll lose it to a fancier one.  But dinner wasn’t the real reason they bought, so quit putting so much focus on it.  Dial into the factors that actually matter.

Don’t let that expense account be a crutch.  If you didn’t have that expense account to lean on, I’ll bet you’d spend less money more effectively.  You’d understand why people would want to meet with you, and you’d get better meetings.  Better meetings mean more sales.

So let me ask you this…  How dangerous would you be if you had an expense account, but could sell without one?

Get out of your own way.  Go be great.  Then buy yourself dinner.