Why It's Ok To Admit You're Stumped

August 29, 2014 Patrick Hembery

I’m in Business Development at Uberflip, where “Business Development” is ultimately a code phrase for sales. I’m not sure when sales became considered taboo to put on your business card, but Business Development has definitely stolen its thunder. Whatever you prefer to call it, I consider my job to be very cut and dry: demonstrate the concrete value of our content marketing platform to prospects so that they will see that it's right for them and sign up. 

There are many ways that our platform and company provide value to marketing and lead/demand generation teams around the globe, including the following:

  • Our platform increases lead generation.
  • Our platform provides real time metrics, enabling content teams to evaluate the performance of each piece within their content Hub.
  • Our content Hub will revitalize an archaic and underperforming “Resource Centre," through an amazing user experience.
  • Robust and deep integration with marketing automation heavyweights including Marketo, Eloqua, and HubSpot.

At the beginning of each month, I’m given a target number of sales that I'm expected to hit. Weekly meetings are in place with the hopes of ensuring I’m on the right path to success, typically attended by my teammates, superiors, and the two company co-founders. My success or failure rate is displayed on a flat screen for everyone to see, and if it so happens that I’m behind my current target, I must explain to the group why that is. Though the words may not always be said, there is a firm understanding that I better come up with a way to increase my numbers. By no means am I complaining. I seek challenges. I love my job. I believe in Uberflip and our game-changing platform. However, while there is an exhaustive list of jobs out there more stressful than mine, there is still a fair amount of stress attached to a job in “Business Development." I haven’t sold enough this month? I'd better figure out a way to sell more. I’m crushing it this month? Still, I'd better figure out a way to sell more.

Like I said, my job is pretty cut and dry.

It’s this cut and dry nature that at times creates fear — the fear of admitting to a potential partner that you don’t know something about your own product. I’m expected to provide concrete value. I’m expected to be solving problems. I’m expected to be the so-called "expert” on Uberflip.

Could admitting to a prospect that they have stumped me with a question blow up the entire partnership?

Will I lose credibility if I admit I don’t know the answer to a question about my own company’s creation? Should I just make something up?I should do whatever is necessary to close the deal, right?

Wrong, in my view. Completely wrong.

Early on in my technology career, I was taught the value of saying “I don’t know," and it remains one of the most important lessons I have learned. I’m not afraid to swallow my pride, and openly admit during a meeting that I’ve been stumped. I talk to  really, really smart people on a daily basis. On any given day, I’m chatting for hours with SEO Wizards, Development Gurus, Content Jedis, and Marketing Automation Rhodes Scholars. While they come to me for learning and guidance about our platform, they often turn the tables on me during the “business development” cycle. I get asked questions that are so specialized and intelligent, I feel they should be illegal. When this happens, I admit that the question is beyond my current scope of knowledge, and let the prospect know I will work with members of my team to devise the proper solution. I view saying “I don’t know” as an opportunity.

It’s an opportunity for me to build trust. It’s an opportunity for me to illustrate our reliability by getting back to the potential partner with the RIGHT answer in a timely fashion. It’s an opportunity for me to introduce and showcase other members of my team who have specialized knowledge that I do not. It’s an opportunity for me to demonstrate how the Uberflip support process functions. It’s also an opportunity for me to pop by our Founder’s Lab (it’s actually just a corner of our open concept office, but I refer to it as the Lab because it’s here that he cooks up how to improve and innovate our platform daily). By working together with my teammates, and constantly partaking in conversations with the founders, as well as our development, marketing, customer success, and billing teams, I’m learning. Most importantly, I’m retaining knowledge so that I know exactly how to respond the next time I get posed the same question.

Ultimately, it’s been my experience that existing customers and potential prospects do not mind, and in fact appreciate, if I tell them I need to go back to my team to provide the correct answer. I work very hard to never let my ego or fear get in the way of that. In my humble opinion, answering “I don’t know” to a question during the “business development” cycle provides much more value than you think. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the fact that you don’t know everything.

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About the Author

Patrick Hembery

Patrick is a Senior Inside Sales Associate at Uberflip. Prior to joining the team, Patrick helped lead business development for Artez Interactive in Canada.

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