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Your Clients’ Burning Desires! (How to Find Them)

Jordan Jellblottom, CEO of Jellmotion, has your proposal. In fact, Jordan’s had your proposal for about eight weeks. Even though you were told the project is high priority, Jordan’s not responding to your emails or phone calls. No signed project. No polite rejection either. Nothing. Why? 


I’ve often said that a proposal collecting dust, unsigned on a prospect’s desk indicates a lack of Want. Jordan feels insufficient urgency and desire. You didn’t surface the burning, emotional driver that overcomes a prospect’s natural resistance to hiring you (or any consultant).

But, as a consultant asked me recently, how do you figure out the emotional driver(s)?

Good question!

It took me a decade to figure this out. (Because I’m numbers-oriented, logic-leaning, and quick to bury my head in chocolate when emotional topics appear.) You can learn it in minutes.

Incorporate two, easy-to-implement techniques into your Context Discussions, and you’ll be awash in emotional information. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll be better than Cats.


Technique #1: Push Back

You can do this at any stage of the Context Discussion, and I recommend pushing back multiple times. It sounds like this:

“I hear this is important, but is it really? You must have much bigger priorities on your plate.” Or,

“I get that the jell vs. goop issue has to be solved… but why now? Why not let it wait?” Or,

“Okay, but what’s the impact if you don’t do this?”

Then Jordan says, “If I don’t get this done ASAP, the board’s going to crucify me.” Bingo! Jordan’s anxiety is now clear. You could even force the issue again:

“Really? What’s the worst that the Board could do?”

When you question your prospect’s rationale, the emotional drivers start to bubble up. More challenging leads to more emotion. Just don’t push so hard the predominant emotion is anger at you!

Technique #2: The Routine, Personal Question

During the Value section of the Context Discussion, after you have walked through the questions that surface the rational value of the project (which may be quantitative, subjective or both), you ask the following question:

“What’s the value of this project to you, personally?” and/or

“How will this benefit you personally?”

Whoa! Aren’t those awfully personal questions, bordering on intimate? Don’t they require a deep, trusting relationship that you may not have established yet? Sorta. Not really.

Yes, the entire Context Discussion—particularly the Risks and Concerns section—is designed to build a safe, trusting environment. However, this technique doesn’t require a trusting relationship. The trick to soliciting personal, emotional drivers is making it routine.


When you’re uncomfortable asking a question, or if it seems like random, inappropriate probing, Jordan’s emotional walls will go up faster than the hackles on a frightened Chihuahua.

Conversely, when the question is obviously a routine part of your standard discovery process, the barriers fall away. Processes have boundaries. Standardized approaches are contained. And containment is essential for emotional comfort. Prospects who experience you asking sincere questions as part of a robust, purposeful approach, will answer with extraordinary candor.

Do you think you can use these techniques to help you surface your prospects’ burning, emotional drivers and close more projects faster? How else do you lock in on the emotional value? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

  1. Greg Reinecke
    June 29, 2016 at 7:14 am Reply

    David, this hits very close to home for me. I have a prospect that was blown away by my offering but I can’t seem to move her to the next step. I clearly haven’t uncovered the emotional drivers. I WILL be incorporating this process and make it routine! Will let you know what happens. Thanks!

    • David A. Fields
      June 29, 2016 at 10:38 am Reply

      Greg, assuming you’re dealing with the decision-maker, then either you’re missing the emotional driver or you haven’t uncovered an obstacle. Have you asked your prospect what it will take to get to the next step or what’s in the way?

      Let me know how it goes as you incorporate these techniques into your routine.

  2. Mary Drotar
    June 29, 2016 at 10:33 am Reply

    Hi David, great article again. Inactive proposals are a bigger issue during the summer months, especially when multiple decision-makers are involved. In fact, I had one yesterday, “Sorry, but my boss was on vacation for 2 weeks, and I’m leaving for a week when he gets back.” So, it is down for a total of 3 weeks… if not more.

    • David A. Fields
      June 29, 2016 at 10:43 am Reply

      Sounds like you’re dealing less with burning emotions and more with the burning sun! Sometimes timing issues are just that–timing. Board approval is required and the Board doesn’t meet for another 3 weeks, or R&D needs 4 more weeks of development time before they know they have a product worthy of developing a marketing plan, or the VP of Horticulture needs to sign off and he’s in Paris eating bon-bons.

      The question I’d have for you is: who’s the decision maker? If it’s the boss, then why does it matter when the subordinate goes on vacation? Are you submitting the proposal to the true decision maker and working it through with him/her?

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