There is a reason that discovery is now less about asking the client to describe their pain, dissatisfaction, or challenges and more about helping them discover something about themselves. One of the reasons the status quo is so alluring to your dream client is that it means they can ignore the constant, accelerating, disruptive change and attempt to live with the devil they know. The devil, however, is a pretty poor business partner, and even though you might be used to him, at some point, he’s going cause you a world of pain.
The reason we’ve gone from asking questions to one where we share the trends and ideas that make a case for changing now is that it moves your dream client’s problems and challenges forward in time. By moving the difficulties and challenges forward in time, you move the better results they need forward. This is one part being proactive, one part business acumen, one part compelling change, and one part strategic outcomes.
Time is the most expensive commodity on Earth. Once you spend time, that time is gone forever, never to return. Like you, your dream clients measure their results in periods of time, mostly quarters. Pushing problems forward in time pushes their better results and better performance further into the future along with them. The further they push a problem or challenge into the future, the more time they go without the better results available to them. Allowing your dream clients to remain woefully unaware of the better results they should be generating and having the difficult conversations around pulling those results forward is to abdicate your responsibility as someone who wants to be a strategic partner or consultative salesperson or whatever words you use to describe these ideas (as long as you don’t define yourself as Trusted Advisor in your LinkedIn profile).
Up to this point in the post, this has been about your dream clients and how you go about displacing your competitor, namely building the case for change (see Eat Their Lunch for more on competitive displacements). If this idea is something useful in taking customers away from your competitors, it’s doubly good for your existing clients. You no doubt have ideas that would benefit your clients now by helping them see their challenges and compel change. Proactively bringing your client the next initiative, moving the problem forward in time enables you to move the better results forward in time.
Better results now are worth more than better results sometime in the future. Better performance now is better than slogging it out with the Devil you know for 18 months before you make the changes necessary to perform better. Being the person who can pull results forward in time will differentiate you in a crowded, “me too” market, where salespeople and sales organizations possess the false belief that they can afford to passive and reactive.
If time is the most expensive commodity on Earth, the alchemist who knows how to pull the future forward in time is a more valuable partner than one who passively waits.
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