Is It Better to Beg Forgiveness or Ask Permission?


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In my office, I have a framed cartoon about “sales.” It’s made up of a lot of smaller cartoons about our profession. I noticed one of them this morning and it got me thinking.

It’s a salesperson who’s got a typical attitude about new product development. He says, “If you folks in engineering could just invent something even close to what I’ve already sold to customers, we’d be in fat city.”

How many times has this happened inside an organization? Here’s a typical story…

Salespeople in the field make a sale. They return to the home office, hat in hand, explaining what they sold. They beg forgiveness because it’s not something that can be built, designed, or delivered.

Where’s the disconnect? Unfortunately, it’s probably sales management (or sales leadership). Why? Because it’s up to them to hold salespeople accountable. A truly gifted salesperson has the skills to sell something that doesn’t even exist (an intangible, non-demand service, for example). Naturally, there’s a sales ethics component to consider, but there’s also accountability.

Salespeople need to understand the consequences for such action. Unfortunately, selling something that doesn’t exist will almost always end up with a disappointed customer. But it’s up to sales leadership to ensure accountability for actions.

Granted, it’s a cartoon (in a potentially common situation), but what steps can this guy’s sales manager take to ensure compliance?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeb Brooks
Jeb Brooks is Executive Vice President of the The Brooks Group, one of the world's Top Ten Sales Training Firms as ranked by Selling Power Magazine. He is a sought-after commentator on sales and sales management issues, having appeared in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal. Jeb authored the second edition of the book "Perfect Phrases for the Sales Call" and writes for The Brooks Group's popular Sales Blog.


  1. Actually, that was the plot of the 1961 movie “Lover Come Back.” VIP was advertised and marketed like crazy before it was invented.


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