I often talk, and write, about how important it is to know your clients’ goals and objectives. You can’t offer an effective recommendation without doing so. However, most of the discussions around this focus on company or department goals. For you really to be effective, you have to get beyond that and find out what motivates your client contact. You need to understand their “secret wants.”
What is the Secret?
Everybody has secret wants…from the barista at your local coffee shop to the office manager to the company CEO to YOU! These wants motivate and inspire. Sometimes they cause fear.
Your job is to discover your client’s wants, understand them and respond to them. The easiest way to know if you are successful in this endeavor is if you’ve got somebody lamenting about their problem, providing detail about how it is affecting them. Now you’ve got them beyond the numbers, spreadsheets and plans to the heart of what motivates them. This is your opportunity to shine!
The Seven Secret Wants
Though they take many forms, most of the secret wants of your clients fall under one of seven simple categories:
- Looking Good: How people are perceived by their peers and superiors is important. Your recommendations, if implemented, should have the potential to make them “heroes” within their organization.
- Easing a Burden: Your clients face significant pressure to deliver favorable results to their customers, shareholders and management teams. You and your teams should deliver solutions that significantly ease one or more of these burdens for them. If they don’t, perhaps you are making the wrong recommendation, which does not make them look good (see #1 above!).
- Avoiding Embarrassment: If you’ve been effective, you now have a relationship with your client that goes beyond simple selling/buying. They trust you. One way to bolster that trust is to stay ahead of their issues, providing recommendations that prevent problems, rather than just solving them. For example, a few years ago I worked with a Fortune 100 company that was about to put a sales executive in front of an important customer. I worked with the person and quickly determined he was not the right person for this assignment. To my client contact, I recommended another course of action. This helped avoid his (and the sales exec’s) embarrassment and likely a whole chain of events that could have been unpleasant.
- Solving a Problem: Everyone has problems that need solving. Clients don’t see you because they want another friend. They see you because they believe you might help them solve at least one of their problems. It’s your job to find out what that problem is and make a recommendation that directly addresses it.
- Working Painlessly: People have enough headaches, they don’t need you creating more! If you are acting as a partner, staying ahead of their issues, keeping them on track and delivering on the promises you make, you will come to be someone on whom they can rely. They will know you’ve got your stuff handled and thus, can focus on the other issues creating their headaches!
- Generating Positive Results: We all want to achieve something. And we need some kind of proof that we’ve achieved it. Want to get healthy? Losing weight might be a goal and it comes with a simple metric….pounds! When you make a recommendation, does it come with a metric to prove it worked? It should. Your client can then take that result and show it to their supervisors, thereby looking good (again…see #1 above).
- Time Saving: Who has an abundance of time these days? Scant few. So, if you bring forth a solution that requires your client put in a lot of hours analyzing it, considering it, weighing it against other options…all of sudden, you’ve created a burden (see #5 above). Make sure what you bring to the table is easily implemented. Create timelines, goals, success metrics…and then keep your client informed. Don’t let them waste one moment of time worrying about what your company is doing for them. Peace of mind!
Take a look back at this list and personalize it. If you were the client, how important are these seven wants for you? How would you prioritize them? This kind of advanced thinking will help immensely as you engage with your clients. Let me know how it goes in the comments below. – SG