They don’t know what they want

| May 14, 2012 | 5 Comments

Conventional wisdom says that the best prospect is the organization that has a need, budget, and is sure that they need what you sell. In fact, if you are like most executives I meet with, you’d be nodding your head in agreement.  So, let me turn that concept Upside-Down. Before you think I am crazier than your craziest weird uncle, let me share a story and an explanation.

I had a wonderful group at my full-day workshop last week. During the session, I asked the group a question: “When your client says they need something you offer, do they usually misdiagnose what they actually need?” The entire room raised their hands. As times have changed, your clients can access just about everything they need to know about your products and services via the Internet. Though this can be a good thing, it also means that they can find a product or service and wrongly reach the conclusion that it fits their needs. Sadly, this means two things when your prospect is convinced that they need what you are selling: 1) They will perceive anyone who claims to offer the same products and services as a commodity instead of a valuable offering; and 2) There is a pretty good chance they have misdiagnosed their condition and are trying to apply the wrong product to fit their needs.

Years ago, one of my reps was speaking with a prospect who had expressed interest in a commercial product and associated services we offered. The total deal was estimated to be $150,000. The prospect, a telecommunications company, had seen an on-line demonstration of the product and felt it would meet their needs. I joined my salesperson on the call since his meeting was with a senior executive. The more they described their situation, the more uncomfortable I became. After realizing that the product was not a good fit for them, I interrupted and said “I know you expressed an interest in this product, but I really don’t think it is the right fit for your needs. Can you explain a bit more about what you are trying to do? My salesperson had a look of panic on his face. He was clearly thinking “I bring the CEO and he is blowing this $150k deal for me.” After all, they wanted to buy this product. As CEO, I was not about to sell them the wrong thing.

As they explained their situation, it became clear that they needed a solution similar to one we had developed for other large organizations. However, the scope of the product was dramatically higher than the scope of what we had come to discuss. The prospect appreciated our candor, and asked what it would take to implement the solution. Ultimately, we ended up doing more than $15 million with them on this project. The salesperson forgave me.

So, what are the key lessons?

  1. Be the tailor:  Don’t let your client purchase a suit that won’t fit. Ensure that whatever you sell is the right fit for their needs.
  2. Honesty is not only the best policy, it’s the only policy: When your client can tell that you are 100% looking out for their best interest, you stand out from the competition. In the example above, we also told her that we had never built that exact system before.  It raised her trust in working with us;
  3. Don’t be surprised: Be prepared to help your client see that the solution they envisioned might not be the best option for them. Sometimes it might mean walking away from one opportunity. If you are fortunate, it will open doors like my example above when you might end up with a deal 100 times larger than originally envisioned.

How often do your clients misdiagnose what they need?

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Category: Consultative selling, Sales Eduction, Upside-Down Selling

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  1. Spot on, Ian. Amazing what real listening can generate.

    Funny too … just today, I had a former client (from my 17-year-ago job) call to hire me for something that I don’t specialize in. He was grateful when I offered to make a connection with an expert.

    Result: I can continue working inside of my niche and he is now clear as to what that niche IS 😉

    • growmyrevenue says:

      Steve – thank you for taking the time to let others benefit from your experience. Your impeccable style would never allow you to blindly take a client into a bad place. Great example.

  2. Ian,

    This is brilliant! Yes, my prospects often misdiagnose their issue. More than half the time, I feel my responsibility is to get to the real issue. Then the solution can really fit the problem.

    Thanks! I’ll be sharing this!

    • growmyrevenue says:

      Terry – Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with others. You are dead on with your approach. I hope to hear from you again.


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