One of the iron laws of selling well is to diagnose before you prescribe a solution. It’s like gravity; you don’t have to like the law, but you do have to obey it. It is wrong to simply view your client’s needs through your solutions; it’s better to work to make certain that what you do is going to work for them.
That said, there is a lot written about not pushing what we perceive to be value-creating solutions on our clients. The behavior to be prevented is coming in as an old school pitchman and hurling lightning bolts of features and benefits at your unsuspecting prospective client. Fine, I accept that as an iron law.
But we go too far when we decide that this means that we serve our clients by passively waiting for them to decide what they find valuable and what will serve them. It’s too much to suggest that you can never lead, sell, or push your clients to do what is right for them.
We are salespeople. Professional salespeople must be able to lead.
Leading Your Client
You will find that some of your dream clients don’t understand that what you propose will create value for them. Because they don’t understand—or believe—that what you propose will help them to move from their current state to their desired state doesn’t mean that it won’t be beneficial to them. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work on changing what they believe about your solution.
Some of your dream clients will believe that what you propose is a value-creating solution that will help them to bridge the gap in their performance, but will resist taking action because of the massive amount of pain that will accompany the change. Because they don’t want to make the change doesn’t mean that it isn’t right for them to make the change. It doesn’t mean that you are to forego moving them to take action.
There are times when you have to lead your dream client.
You have to lead them to making the changes that they need to make in order to reach their desired state. When you have done your diagnosis and discovered their ground truth and their constraints, you have to lead your client to take action—even when they resist.
This is why trust and relationships are so important. This is also why your clients have to know that you are going to be standing in the foxhole with them and that you will own the outcome.
They fear failing. They fear being abandoned. They fear being lied to. Your leadership can change all of that.
Selling Your Client
A couple recent comments I have read on blog posts suggest that if your client doesn’t already see the value in your solution, or if they don’t come up with the idea on their own and recognize in your solution what they already want, that you shouldn’t “push” your solution on your client. Nonsense. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you are in sales, you sell. If you want to be a trusted advisor, you sometimes have to make things painful for your clients—just like someone on their management team. You have to sell the truth. You have to enter the fray.
Your client may not recognize the value in your solution right away. You may have to spend time pitching and making your case. You may have to push your solution, and you may have to pitch like crazy to get them to both recognize how your proposal is right for them as well as how dedicated you are to ensuring that they get the result that you promise and sell.
You have to sell your initiative just like you would if you were part of their company. If you want to be treated like part of their management team, like a strategic partner, you have to first behave like one. That doesn’t mean you are a dispassionate spectator.
Pushing Your Client
There are some subtleties to be observed here. You have to have done the work: the trust building, the relationship building, and the diagnosing. You also have to have the right solution.
More still your intentions have to be right. You have to be leading, pushing, and selling because you care deeply about helping your dream client to get the result that they need—even when they resist. Intentions are everything.
Selfish intentions: you are a self-interested pitchman.
Caring deeply and committing to going the distance: you are a professional salesperson, and perhaps even someone worthy of being called a trusted advisor.
Doing what is right for your clients doesn’t mean that they buy from you because you need to make the sale. But it also doesn’t mean that you can’t lead your clients to a better result—even a result that they resist—just because you will also benefit from their doing so. You can lead, sell, and push your value creating ideas because they are right, even before your client recognizes their need or recognizes the value.
When is it right to lead your client and push them forward against their resistance?
What does this ability require of your first in the way of trust and relationships?
Why is it necessary that your intentions be right in order for you to push against your client’s resistance?
Would a trusted advisor give up on doing what is really right, what is really necessary? Or would they be better served by you continuing to push?
Is it right to not sell what is right? When and why?
Subscribe to my weekly podcast In the Arena.