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BLOGIf You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get

by Randall CraigFiled in: Make It Happen Tipsheet, Blog, Business Development, Career PlanningTagged as: ,

Recently, I had the opportunity to mentor someone who was looking for a summer internship just before his final year of university. Like most young people, he was stressed about the job search process, but was thrilled when he scored an interview for his dream job.

If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get

Two key lessons he learned were directly from the sales playbook, and are ones that we so often forget when we are doing our own business development activities: If you don’t ask, you don’t get, and small greed succeeds.

After his second interview, the company sprang it on him: they’ll pay mileage, but the internship is unpaid. Oops. But he gets the benefit of spending time with their top person, learning all about marketing and sales.

Putting aside the dubious ethic of “hiring” interns for nothing, and expecting them to work more than full-time hours, in the jurisdiction where this company is located, unpaid internships are illegal. Hence the call to me: “what should I do?”

My advice was simple: make a counteroffer, justifying the value that you’re adding. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Too often, when we are faced with a prospect, we either shy away from asking for what we need in the transaction, or worse, accept an offer that we shouldn’t.

The big question though, remains: how much should you ask for? An important factor in any negotiation is that both sides need to be winners. If this doesn’t happen, there is dysfunction: buyer’s remorse, corner-cutting, scope creep, damaged relationships, or no deal in the first place. The trick is to ask for enough that will meet your needs, but to leave enough on the table that the counter-party also feels that they got a great deal. Small greed succeeds.

In this particular case, the student was able to get a reasonable hourly wage, along with a commission for any prospects that he was able to bring in. The employer got a motivated intern who also agreed to work evenings and weekends whenever required.


Can you remember a deal that didn’t pan out the way you expected? Perhaps it didn’t close, or maybe it went south shortly thereafter? Ask yourself honestly, was it because you didn’t ask for what you needed, or you asked for too much?

Sales insight: Finding the happy medium between these two lessons is where relationships are built. Here’s a new lesson: Ask for what you need – but small greed succeeds.

A Big Thank You:  Where did these two expressions come from?  Credit where credit is due to the formidable Bob Coffey, former vice-chair of KPMG.  I worked with him very closely, and these were two of many of his “management by slogan” quotations.   Even decades later, they resonate.

Related post: Negotiation

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