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Prospects Don’t Want What You’re Selling

Consultants are cerebral. Heck, who else even uses a word like cerebral? We’re problem solvers, synthesizers, connect-the-dotters. We use our mega-intellects to set our clients on the path to success. Sure, IT weenies come up with cool terms like petabyte, zetabyte and yottabyte while we’re coining mucked-up words like edutainment, hyperlocal and gamification, but we know how to gamify a yottabyte. Or at least we’ll say we do and punctuate our command of the topic with a two-by-two matrix.

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Our talent is all above the neck. Big heads stuffed intellectual property, intellectual capital and intellectual knowhow. And there’s the problem. While we’re tapping our brains to propose great ideas, expecting prospective clients to see the obvious advantages we proffer, the folks we’re talking at are listening with their viscera. They’re focused below the neck, and they don’t even hear us.

The consultants in my programs all offer tremendous value. Each and every one of them has ideas that will make their clients more successful, more profitable and more effective. But when consultants join, they’re usually not closing the amount of business they could. A big part of that is they’re too focused on the hard benefits for the client company and not focused enough on the soft benefits for the client person. Unless you’re addressing your prospect’s personal drivers* you’re playing too much to Need and too little to Want. When it comes to closing projects, Want is where the action is.

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So, how do you address want? First, as much as I hate to say this, you’ll get faster, more consistent results focusing on pain than on gain. Pain is simply a much more powerful motivator than gain, which makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Pain signals imminent extinction; ignoring it is not an option. Gain, on the other hand, is a nice to have. It’s wildly discretionary.

To focus on pain (or gain), though, you need to have some personal knowledge of that gal or guy on the other side of the desk. In other words, you need a relationship. Oh yeah. Remember all the times I have said to focus on relationships above everything else? This, in part, is why. When you have a good relationship with a prospective buyer you learn about them on the emotional level. What’s injecting happiness into their lives and what’s sapping away vitality like a joy-sucking super-mosquito.

With that emotional knowledge in hand you can offer affective information. For instance, comparisons to benchmarks or competition (comparisons are inherently emotional), or the personal consequences of not taking the action you recommend. Note that you should never use your personal insight to manipulate or take advantage of another person. Your knowledge of their emotional drivers is a fragile gift that you should safeguard jealously.

The point is your emotional pitch, tying into Want, is easily as important as your intellectual arguments. Yes, the other five pillars of consulting success (Know, Like, Trust, Need and Value) need to be in place to win business, but don’t underestimate the power of Want. Your big ol’ brain may not give it much credence, but when the consulting projects start pouring in your heart will be singing.

*Motivators, not chauffeurs. Just clarifying.


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