Customers Don’t Always Know What They Want


Do you ever get the feeling that customers don’t always know what they want?


Now don’t get me wrong, some buyers know exactly what they want and opt for it and get it. But it’s common that customers don’t know what they “truly” want and actually what they portray is completely different to what they necessarily need.


One of the best sales books you will ever read is the challenger sale, if you haven’t read it then go out and buy it now, I promise that you won’t regret the purchase. It may sound peculiar as an author of a sales book that I’m recommending a competing book, but I’m not egotistical, the challenger sale it’s a fantastic book which works in conjunction with our book Sales Icon: Selling in the Shadows. After all, I’m a believer that the best sales people apply a mixture of approaches and traits that work best from them. Whether that comes from books they’ve read or peers they’ve witnessed sell.


Anyway back to my point, the challenger sale highlights three key approaches, those being

  • Teach
  • Tailor
  • Take control

I want you to think about these principles in relation to customers not always knowing what they want. To help you reflect on this I’m going to give you an example to mull over.


woman wearing white shirt standing beside white board while pointing on white paper

I recently witnessed a sales person lose a sizable opportunity, which if I’m honest they shouldn’t have lost. They were in prime position for the sale, they had a fantastic relationship with the customer and they’d conducted numerous actions to prove their credibility and win the sale.



Where they fell down is that they thought the customer knew what they wanted, so they gave them exactly what they asked for.



Now in their conversations throughout the sales process the customer told them that they wanted a Rolls Royce solution, best of breed that money can buy and they proved that they had budget allocated for such a solution.


Months of work ensued, the sales person spent days of working hours developing and refining his proposition to be best of breed. Then after it was proposed they found out that they’d lost the opportunity!



The sales person was left bemused, they were in prime position to win the sale and had done everything the customer had asked, where did it all go wrong? How did they lose this sale?



Well the sales persons competitor applied the principles in the challenger sale. They listened to what the customer wanted, of course they did, they willingly offered a Rolls Royce Solution too. but the difference was that they offered this as option 2 of their proposition.



As option 1 they pitched a scaled back solution which was much more cost effective. They focused on teaching the customer that their original desired solution was over specified for their needs. They tailored their pitch and solution to demonstrate that a scaled back option would save money which can be re-purposed elsewhere but at the same time over deliver on their key drivers for end user experience. What’s more they led with this approach, they took control of the situation and dared to be different, juxtaposed with giving the customer exactly what they requested.



Some customers do know what they want, but not all of them do. So if you want to distinguish yourself from your competitors then bear this story in mind and apply the challenger sale techniques.



If a customer tells you they want something then don’t take this as gospel. Do right by the customer, if you know that what they’ve specified won’t work or is over the top for what they need then say so and give a recommendation. They’ll be incredibly receptive of your advice and approach and chances are that if you can do this effectively you’ll win the opportunity!



For more sales insights such as this do follow the blog and look out for my soon to be released book Sales Icon: Selling in the Shadows.

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