Stop and raise your hand if you have never had a client tell you that they know exactly what they “want.”
I see no hands went up.
The simple fact is that most of the times our prospects do a very good job of saying that they know exactly what they want, but in truth if they knew what they needed and how to get it done, more likely than not, they would have done it themselves.
Really, as consultants and service professionals, you have to do a good job of reframing your conversations from those centered around what the client or prospect might say is a definite want to get to the root of the need that the client has.
The secret question I have come up with over the years that helps me understand and calibrate a client’s desires is pretty simple:
“Why do you say that?”
“Why are you taking action now?”
“What do you need to change this?”
All question in that vein that begin with the word, “Why?”
How can you understand whether or not you are focusing on wants or needs? Here are a couple of examples:
1. Reframe the conversation around outcomes:
When someone tells you they know exactly what they want, it is often given to you without the proper context. That’s why reframing your conversation around the results that are desired is important.
The outcomes you are attempting to achieve can and should guide the decision making process of your project.
2. Drill deeper, but look at the big picture:
No project occurs in a vacuum and no project is as simple as it seems at the start.
So you need to drill deeper into the problem while maintaining a focus on the big picture and the strategies that are at play with any project you are working on.
3. Don’t be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom:
When you are brought into a project, you are almost always called in because something isn’t working the way that the prospect wants it to work.
So that means that just because someone tells you that this is how their business is, that doesn’t mean that is actually how it is…your job is to push at the status quo and to question assumptions until you know for sure what the situation you are facing is.