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March 16, 2021

Your Clients Don’t Know What They Need!

Alternate title: ‘Don’t Be an Order-Taker’

I received a call from a client last week. He said he wanted to talk with me about our sales training workshops. Great! Love to do those!

In my younger days… I would have hopped on the phone call and told him everything about our workshops, all the topics we covered, key takeaways for his employees and what makes it different than any other sales training workshop in our industry. It would have been awesome… at least that’s what I would have thought back then!

But I’m not that guy anymore… I’ve learned a few things.

When we hopped on the call, the very first thing I said was, “You mentioned you want to learn about our sales training… what’s going on there?” And then I sat back and let him talk.

After 5 or 10 minutes, it became obvious that sales training was NOT what his firm needed. They had other internal issues – around structure and processes – that will need to be addressed before the sales training would have any impact.

So, that’s the road we went down for the rest of the conversation. The focus was on his real needs and how we might be able to help him. And it didn’t take long for him to realize, as well, that what we were talking about was at the heart of his problems… and what I was suggesting made a lot of sense.

Here’s the point: had we focused on the sales training during the call – even if he ended up buying it – the damage would have been done. I would have sold something to a client that they really didn’t need (at least not at that time). At some point, he would have realized what I had done… and that would have caused real harm to our relationship.

Unfortunately, that’s what far too many seller-doers and even full-time salespeople do… they take orders. It’s quick… it’s easy… and it gets them a commission. But it’s wrong. And it can easily be avoided.

Solving the Problem

The key to real success in selling is asking questions. To uncover the buyer’s true needs… not the needs on the surface. You have to not only explore what they want… but, more importantly, why they want it. And it’s the ‘why’ that will lead you to right solution for their problem.

Here’s a simple example, similar to my recent experience to show you what I mean:

Buyer: “I want to learn about your sales training.”

Me: “Great! Why is that?”

Buyer: “I want my seller-doers to be better salespeople.”

Me: “Of course. Why do you say that?”

Buyer: “None of them are hitting their sales goals.”

Me: “Understood. Why do you think that is?”

Buyer: “I’m wondering if the goals are too high.”

Me: “That happens. Why do you think they’re too high?”

Buyer: “Honestly, we don’t really have a good process in place for setting them.”

See what happens… the more you drill down, the closer you get to the root cause of the issue. And in this case, it was more of a management and process issue than a training issue.

So, keep asking “why” until you uncover the real cause of the problem.

But, Steve, why do that? Don’t buyers know what they need?

Maybe. But is that a chance you’re willing to take? Your buyer might have a blind spot to his or her real needs for any number of reasons:

  • They haven’t thought too much about it… they’re busy. And their solution seems obvious to them.
  • They’re really in love with what they’ve decided and see no need to consider other options.
  • Maybe the buyer is out of their depth. Like my client, sales management isn’t really in his wheelhouse – though it is part of his responsibility – so he simply couldn’t recognize the issue.
  • Too often, research buyers (and sellers) focus on the research methodology, rather than on the business problem they need the research to help solve.

And so on and so on.

Bottom line

Selling is hard. And when a buyer comes to you telling you what they want, it’s easy to get excited and deliver exactly that. But first, make sure it’s what’s best for them… and you! So, step back… ask a few questions… and make sure your client truly knows what they need. Then close that deal!

Good luck and good selling.

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