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Meeting Client Needs: Hold Your Fire Until All the Targets Are Revealed

“Conventional wisdom” and past experience typically suggest that the way to handle multiple tasks is to recognize/define them and deal with them in sequence— knocking them off one at a time until the entire job is done.  In fact, when the issue is meeting client needs, the consultative sales person must realize that this is a dangerous approach.  Here’s why it’s imperative that you get all of the client’s needs out on the table before you begin to address any of them.

  • Your perfect solution to a need you’ve already heard may be totally inappropriate to another need that hasn’t yet been revealed.  (Example: your plan satisfies the client’s ease-of-implementation objective, but won’t meet his/her timeline, which your situation analysis dialog hadn’t yet shown.)  If you’d heard all of the needs first, you never would have offered this solution, but now you’ve “stubbed your toe.”
  • Conversely, your perfect solution to a need you’ve already heard may actually also meet one or more other needs that have not yet been revealed.  Not realizing this, your recommendation will fail to take advantage of one of the most powerful appeals in selling:  “killing two (or more) birds with one stone.”  (Example: your plan is both easy to implement and timely, but you don’t feature its timeliness because you weren’t aware of that need.)  Indeed, stressing meaningful multiple benefits may be your best shot at successfully justifying your price.
  • Worst of all, your perfect solution to a need you’ve already uncovered may stop short of completely solving the client’s problems or achieving his/her objectives.  Not realizing this, you may miss an opportunity to sell more solutions to your client.  (Example: you’ll need two separate services to meet all the client’s needs, several of which weren’t even initially apparent to the client.)  Now both of you lose out:  the client doesn’t get a complete set of solutions and you don’t make an appropriately larger sale.

A not unreasonable counter to all of the above might be this:  “No problem, if my first solution doesn’t fly, I’ll just double back to situation analysis and probe for more needs.”  Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to actually do this.  Once you offer your first solution, the dialog shifts away from discussing the client’s needs and becomes the client’s evaluation of your solution.  Now the client is asking the questions and you’re giving the answers, not vice versa.  Because of your zeal to sell your solution, you may not notice, or may even unwittingly support this premature change of direction.

The way to avoid all this is simple:  be as thorough and complete as possible in determining your client’s needs; then begin to offer your solutions.