Your dream client asks the question: “So, do you have experience working with clients in our industry?” You’re enveloped in fear and sweat. It’s the question you were afraid you might be asked.
The truth is that you don’t have experience in their industry. You’ve never worked with a client in their vertical. But you know the right answer is supposed to be in the affirmative.
You can’t lie and say that you have experience you don’t have (and nor would you). But if you admit that you don’t have the experience, you fear that you will lose the business to one of your competitors with experience working with similar clients.
You are going to tell the truth. But how you tell the truth can make the difference.
What Do I Need to Know
It doesn’t matter whether or not your dream client’s industry isn’t as different as they believe it to be. But challenging your dream client’s reality only brings resistance. Their belief that their business is different is embedded in their question. So you allow them to keep that belief.
The honest answer that keeps you in the game sounds like this: “No, we don’t have experience working with clients in your space. We have some suspicions about what we might have to do different to work with you, but I’d love to hear you share what you believe we’d need to know to be an effective partner for you. Can you share your ideas with me?”
Can We Still Win?
You follow up directly and candidly any answers that might disqualify you .
You might say something that sounds like this: “It sounds to me like experience working in your industry is somewhat important to you. Is there a way that we could demonstrate our ability and prove that we are the right choice for you without that experience? What would we need to do for you to be comfortable making that decision?”
Here’s a follow on to your follow on: “Are there other verticals that we might serve that would demonstrate our ability to be the right choice for you?”
These questions ensure that you aren’t wasting your time—or your dream client’s time—if you aren’t going to be considered. Avoiding difficult questions doesn’t improve the likelihood of your winning an opportunity.
Turn It Upside Down
Sometimes, just for fun, I exaggerate my response to all of the client’s “unique” and “special” challenges. I say something like: “Wow! You really have a unique set of challenges! In fact, I’ve never even heard of anyone experiencing these challenges before.” Normally the client laughs, knowing that the challenges they face aren’t all that unique, and if you can serve other industries, you can probably serve them just as effectively. They say, “I know. It’s always the same kinds of problems, isn’t it?”
The Last Word
If you don’t have experience in your dream client’s industry, you don’t have it. Deal with it directly, and ask what you need to do to prove you can succeed without it—and the opportunity to gain that experience.
How do you answer questions about experience when you don’t have it?
Is the right answer embedded in the question? How do you open the possibility that it isn’t as important as they might believe?
Are most of the solutions you offer easily ported from one industry to another?
What are some of the special, unique situational needs some of your clients have? Can you leverage your experience serving them to help company’s in other verticals?
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