Drawing a Line

A question came up the other day during the office hours I held for members of my Inner Circle mentorship program.

The question was, "Do you take on a well-paying client engagement when you disagree partly with the scope of the project?"

The ensuing conversation reminded me of McKinsey’s unofficial policy of turning down multi-million dollar client work when the firm didn’t feel the engagement was in the client's best interest.

The McKinsey partners had a line over which they decided not to cross.

The woman who taught me how to sell shared a story with me. She was on the verge of closing a $24 million deal (which was 12 times the average salesperson’s revenue production in an entire year).

The deal was for $20 million in software and $4 million in consulting services. Her commission on the deal would have been $1 million.

The Fortune 500 client said they would only do the deal if it was $20 million for the software only. They didn’t want the $4 million in consulting services.

She knew the client would not be successful in implementing the software without consulting support.

She told the client “no” and turned down a million dollar commission check. She drew a line over which she would not cross.

(The client was shocked and ultimately changed their mind when they realized my mentor had their best interests at heart.)

Under what circumstances would you turn down a 40% raise?

Under what circumstances would you turn down admission into Harvard?

Under what circumstances would you turn down an opportunity to meet your favorite celebrity?

You can get to know somebody based on the impression they make with you.

You can also get to know somebody (including yourself) based on when and where they draw a line over which they won’t cross.

If someone will cross any line to get what they want, would you trust them?

If you would cross any line to get what you want, should anyone trust you?

It’s worth thinking about where you draw your line.

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