Anthony Iannarino is an international speaker, bestselling author, sales leader, and entrepreneur. He posts daily sales tips and insights to The Sales Blog.

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When Your Prospect Steals Your Idea

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You worry about your dream client taking your big idea and executing it themselves—or worse, giving the idea to your competition. As unfortunate as this is, it is a necessary risk and part of being consultative. One way to make this point is to recognize how absurd it would be to try withholding your insights and ideas.

Client: “Do you have any ideas about what wevmight do to improve?”

You: “Yes, I do.”

Client: “What should we be considering? What should we do?”

You: “I know the answer.”

Client: “What is it?”

You: “I can’t tell you.”

Client: “You can’t tell me?”

You: “No. I can’t.

Client: “What? Why not?”

You: “You are just going to have to trust me and sign the contract.”

Client: “Sign a contract to do what?”

You: “Help you get the result you need.”

Client: “But, shouldn’t I be able to understand how you are going to help before I decide? What if it isn’t something we can do?”

You: “I’ll tell you what the solution looks like after you sign the contract, then you will know how we produce those results.”

Client: “What, is it a secret?”

You: “Yes. No one knows how we get these results. We hold this secret sacred. We can never allow our competitors to discover it.”

Client: “Thank you so much for your time, Johnny Illuminati.”

Being a Consultative Seller

You cannot be consultative without sharing your ideas and insights.

Mostly, what you do isn’t so different that your competitors couldn’t do the same thing if they wanted to. The reason they don’t is that they don’t want to, or they are executing a different strategy or business model. Nothing stays a secret forever, and in many industries, people find very similar ways to get to the same result—or something close. Over time, things tend towards commoditization.

If you are ahead of your competition in some area, giving them the idea doesn’t mean they could execute if they tried, which is why real differentiation tends to last awhile. People and companies don’t change easily or quickly.

When a prospective client runs off with your idea or passes it off to your competitor, they often continue to have the same problems, including a lack of new and relevant ideas and a partner who can’t fill that gap.

When this happens, you need to address it. You cannot avoid difficult conversations.

You: “I would love to keep sharing ideas with you, but to do that, you’re going to have to commit to letting us help you execute them. While we would love to serve you, we aren’t interested in helping teach our competitors how to think about the problems we solve. Is that fair?”

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