I recently heard someone refer to their legal department as a “Sales Prevention Department”. I realized that most businesses have some sort of “idea prevention department”, whether they nickname it the “VP of We Can’t” or the “Abominable No Men”. These are the alarmists who are so focused on what can go wrong that they miss the big picture. When every risk is magnified with a telephoto lens, it sometimes feels safer to stand still.
When you are championing an idea in an organization, you have to win over the “Abominable No Men”. Some of this comes through asking for forgiveness rather than permission. But a lot of this requires selling inside, which is often more important than selling outside.
Almost ten years ago, I experienced my first introduction to large corporate legal teams. Gaining approval on ideas was notoriously tough. But I soon discovered that reviews went a lot smoother when I took the time to personally befriend the legal team and get to know their motivations. I learned that a lawyer named Josh played bass in a rock band on weekends and went by the nickname J-Low. I found it was a lot easier to champion an idea with J-Low because I knew him well enough to anticipate and overcome objections that came up.
It’s not always the lawyers. In fact, the best lawyers are mindful of risk, but also mindful of opportunity. I’ve worked with a number of lawyers who know how to weigh both sides of an idea and give a measured point of view. I’ve even worked with some who could create marketing opportunities out of legal challenges.
Every business needs both the opportunists and the risk mitigators, those who see the silver linings and those who see the storm clouds. A successful marketer sees both.