Discovering your client’s deepest need is your most important objective. There is one best way to discover it. (This post is part of my Core Content and curriculum about Relationship Selling and your client’s “deepest need”.)
Here’s how I learned once and for all about discerning the client’s deepest – and often unspoken – need. At my old engineering firm, I was the Client Program Manager serving a particular Air Force client. We were doing a lot of work for them and hoped to do a lot more. I spent hours of face time with the chief point-of-contact at the Air Force, paying attention to their wants and needs and being helpful.
Doesn’t the client know how difficult this is?
The client had a challenging and dangerous engineering problem he wanted solved – the destruction of tons of dangerous, aged, decrepit-but-still-full gas cylinders. We hadn’t been given the project yet, so the hours I spent with the client each week devising plans and alternatives – I couldn’t bill any of that time. We didn’t have the project yet. I was on overhead.
As client Jim continued to offer that I could attend these (unbillable) meetings, I said to myself, “I like working with Jim, but he’s had enough contractors work for him that he knows I can’t bill any of this time. But we claim we want to be helpful, so I’ll work it out at the office somehow. I’ll find other billable work and work extra hours.” At least I knew that my firm and I were proving to be helpful and to put the client’s needs above our own. We had shown that we could be relied on to help whether or not the time could be billed.
The client was about to compete a very large umbrella contract. As Program Manager it was my job to know the client’s deepest need and make sure my firm and our proposal satisfied that need.
Then it hit me.
“Jim is showing me every way he can – without saying it out loud – that the winning bidder will be the one who put this client’s needs ahead of their own. Even when it was difficult. Even when it was unbillable! That is this client’s deepest need about their next contractor. That is this client’s discriminator. He’s shown me how to win this!”
Our proposal proved we were helpful and effective for this client, that we went above normal expectations about how much time we would spend. We won the contract, did terrifically hard and satisfying work, and made back every penny we’d spent in unbillable time. He had made his deepest need and discriminator perfectly clear; all I had to do was listen.
Please leave a comment and let’s talk. This is such important stuff and can make a major difference in your career. (This post is part of my Core Content and curriculum about Relationship Selling.)