You booked an appointment with your dream client, you opened strong, and you are ready to uncover the dissatisfaction that you need to find to create and win an opportunity. You dig in with questions as to how their present partner, your competitor, is performing, ready to pounce on every one of their many faults.

Not so fast.

Speaking poorly about your competitor, or even blatant attempts to lead your dream client to speak poorly about them, force your dream client to go on the defensive. This is the last thing you need.

My Fist, Your Face

Imagine someone swings their fist directly at your face. What happens? Before you even have time to think about what is happening, your arms swing up to block the incoming blow. An attack, whether physical or verbal, tends to cause an automatic defend.

“But wait,” you say. “I wasn’t attacking them. I was trying to establish their present provider’s shortcomings and their dissatisfaction. I was trying to locate where I can create value.” And surely your intentions were good.

But many direct questions about your dream client’s satisfaction and relationship cause them to reflexively defend themselves—and your competitor.

You Chose Poorly, Didn’t You?

Think about this: You dream client contact is likely the one that chose your competitor. Your direct questions about their dissatisfaction with their present provider make your dream client contacts feel as though they have to defend their decision to have chosen that partner.

So, instead of getting a litany of complaints, you are greeted with a strong defense of their incumbent. You say, “What kind of problems are you having with your current provider?” Your dream client says: “None, really. They are doing a great job for us.”

Your words cause them to defend, and instead of them sharing their challenges, their needs, and their dissatisfaction, you cause them to entrench.

Better, Less Judgmental Questions

A better way to uncover the answers that you need is to ask better questions. The trick is to ask questions that aren’t judgmental. Believe it or not, you never even have to mention your competitor.

You can ask the question: “What kind of new results do you need to produce?” You can ask: “What kind of changes would you like to see from someone in our space moving forward? Or, you can ask the question: “What would we have to do for you in order to help you produce the results that you need?”

To answer these questions, your dream client has to accept the premise that things could be better, that improvements are both possible and necessary.

You can also ask questions that allow your contact to share without having to say anything negative about their present provider (whom they chose, right?). You can try something like: “What does our industry generally do that needs to be changed in order to produce the real results that you need?”

Now, they aren’t talking about their provider, they are talking about your industry. You get the added benefit of differentiating yourself in your response.

Free and Open

When you ensure that your dream client doesn’t have to defend your competitor, it’s amazing how much they share. While you can’t say anything negative, they pay the bills and they are free to speak their minds.

It usually sounds like this: “Well, our present provider is great. We love them. We don’t have any problems. They are really better than average. They do a fair job, and we don’t have a lot of complaints. They’re not perfect. In fact, there are some things they could work on. Really they haven’t been performing well over the last three months. We haven’t really been happy for a long time. They’re terrible, and we can’t move fast enough.”

You can open the possibility for something that sounds like the paragraph above (although that might happen in the course of a thirty-minute conversation), if your contact is free to work through this kind of dialogue without anything that sounds or feels like it is judgmental.

When you attack your competitor directly, you force your dream client to defend their decision. When you don’t make direct attacks, you open the opportunity for your dream client to speak their mind—and they’ll take care of sharing their dissatisfaction with you.


What questions cause your dream client contact to defend their past decision to choose your competitor?

How can you uncover their dissatisfaction without asking direct questions about their present provider?

Do the questions you ask sound or feel judgmental?

How do you make the space for your dream client to speak openly and honestly about their dissatisfaction?

Sales 2011
Post by Anthony Iannarino on June 30, 2011
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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