Do Not Hide Behind “Rules”

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“We know that this solution is what we need, but we will not acquire it because of our procurement rules.”

Ridiculous, right? But far too often that comment or one similar to it is made when you are in the business of acquiring or selling technology. The example above is written from the point of view of a customer, but the same thing happens on the sales side as well:

“We want to sell you our solution, but we will not because our rules say that the sale must proceed in this particular way with no exceptions.”

I live in both of these worlds. I was and still am an IT customer, and now I am a pre-sales IT technical resource. I am huge fan of documented processes, but the truth is that these statements are made out of fear and not out of a need for rules.

These are stereotypical “Cover Your Ass” statements, and if you find yourself making them stop. Just stop. You are not “playing by the rules”.

You are hiding behind the rules.

Now I have no problem with someone saying “We want this solution, but we have a strict procurement policy. Let me explain it to you, so that we can work together to reach a mutually beneficial decision.”

On the sales side the same is true as well. There is nothing wrong with a sales person explaining that certain expectations need to be addressed in order for a deal to move forward. Pointing out potential obstacles that a deal might encounter early and often is a good thing, as long as you are doing this for the purpose of ensuring that all parties reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Do not assume that the satisfactory conclusion will be a sale. It might be that the deal falls through. You may not be able to sell the technology, because of a government regulation or a legitimate procurement concern. The rules are the rules. Sometimes things just do not work out, and that is okay.

Your approach to the problem though is what is important here. If you start the process with “These are the rules. We do not have a perfect match. Game over.” then what you have done is kept your comfy blinders on so that you do not have to work out a solution. You approached the problem focused on the rules, and not on finding a solution which might require some tough decisions to be made and so rules to be challenged.

Whether you do that out of fear of making a mistake or laziness is irrelevant. Your approach is doomed to produce a career of mediocrity at best. Please proceed down that path if that is all that you hope to attain in life, and you do not mind your organization being stagnant.

Here is the secret though for making it to the next level of your career and at the same time improving your organization:

Rules are only worth following when they bring us closer to better results, and so obsolete rules must be abandoned when they prevent progress.

The “rules” are constantly changing. Just go to Google and search for “dumb laws” if you need proof. If you use a rule as a way to avoid acceptable risks or difficult work you are going to be surpassed by the person who is committed to great results obtained through ethical means. These rules challengers are the people who do not restrict themselves to the game of bureaucratic rules and regulations.

These rules challengers are the people who are constantly writing the new rules through which successful business is done. And if you are hiding behind the rules now, you will not be able to hide from those smart and ambitious rules makers in the future when they put you out of business or take (i.e. – earn) your job from you. Those are the real rules, and you better be playing by them.

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