We love what we sell, and we believe deeply that our products, services, and solutions are far superior to our competitor’s. Because this is true, it is easy to view all of your dream client’s problems, challenges, and dissatisfaction through the lens that is your solutions.
Without meaning to, we are sometimes guilty of the arrogance of believing that because we have generated results for other clients with the solution that we are recommending, that it is necessarily the right solution for our next dream client.
Without making the necessary adjustments that can only come from a deep understanding of the ground truth that is your dream client’s business needs, their preferences, and their constraints, you may find that you win the business only to turn around and immediately lose it.
A True Story, Names Omitted to Protect the Innocent—and the Guilty
My team was pursuing a dream client and we presented a very comprehensive plan to handle all of their needs in our segment. We got to the opportunity late, and even though we didn’t yet have the relationships that we needed, our dream client was in serious pain, and we felt we had an obligation to present the right solution—even though we knew we didn’t have the relationships.
One of our competitors did have the relationships. After learning from one of their contacts what we presented, our competitor leveraged that relationship to present what was conceptually our plan—even though they hadn’t cared enough about this client to present a plan like it over the course of the year that they had been serving the client.
Need I say anything more about relationships? All things being equal relationships win. All things being unequal, relationships still win. In this case, our lack of relationships caused my group to lose the opportunity to a competitor who had the relationships, even though we had sold the concept.
As a competitor, I hate to lose. I hate to lose even more when I know that I am truly the right choice for my dream client. The only possible way to hate to lose more is to know you are the right choice and then make the conceptual sale for your competitor.
The Concept Isn’t the Execution
Inside of ninety-days, my competitor lost the business. How?
First, they installed their solution. They believed that because their solution worked for another company, the same solution with no modifications or customizations would work for this company. This is the arrogance of viewing your dream client’s problems through your existing solutions.
Second, their solution wasn’t aligned with this client’s business needs. This client has a complicated and complex client of their own. Much of what they need stems from what they must do to serve their own client. My competitor in this case, was unwilling make changes to their program, either not recognizing the need or not possessing the business acumen to realize that their solution, without modification, made it impossible for the client to serve their own client.
If you want a surefire way to lose business, just let your solution make it more difficult for your client to take care of their client.
Finally, this client had a lot of reputation at stake. Failing would prove embarrassing, and would result in a loss of reputation and trust. So rather than suffer any more, the client pulled the plug on my competitor.
Your Dream Client Is Different
Even though what you do for one client may be pretty similar to what you do for the next, selling effectively means that you have to start with the assumption that every dream client is different.
Even though you may solve a set of problems that are common to your clients, how those problems manifest themselves within their business may be very different. Your dream client’s needs, their preferences, and their constraints have to be taken into consideration when you sell your solution—so you can later execute in a way that helps them achieve the results that they need.
It Doesn’t Matter What Worked Across the Street
It doesn’t matter that your solution worked across the street and helped a different client with the same problem.
Eliminating the arrogance that accompanies our preference for our solutions—and our winning—means knowing that what worked across the street might work for a particular client, it might not work for a particular client, or might need to modified and customized so that it can be delivered in way that allows it to work for that client.
Different Clients, Different Constraints
One of the reasons I write so often, and so adamantly, about business acumen, the ability to diagnose, and the ground truth, is that without these things it is difficult to really help your dream clients produce better results. Different dream clients, even when they are in the same space, have very different constraints. Without understanding these constraints, it is near impossible to get your solution right the first time—if ever.
How do you check your desire to sell a solution that worked for another client until after you have done the heavy lifting that ensures that it will produce the results your dream client is after?
Why is it critical to understand your dream client’s constraints? How do you make sure you know and understand them?
Why is it critical to understand how your solution impacts your client’s solution for their clients? (The value chain stretches a long way, doesn’t it?) How do you make sure you know and understand?