I’ve read that the average toddler hears the word ‘no’ 400 times per day, and I may be on pace to break that average wide open before my son hits the ripe old age of two. But the instinctual ‘no’ at home and the appropriate ‘yes’ in business hasn’t crossed paths…just yet.
Everyone is guilty of it. EVERYONE. The shoot-from-the-hip ‘yes’ answer to a client or prospect because we are so eager to please, or so anxious to close the next big account. Who does that ‘yes’ really hurt in the end. That answer again is…EVERYONE.
It’s a classic theme heard over and over again, “The customer is always right”. And in today’s economy who can afford to say ‘no’? Now don’t go out tomorrow and begin slapping hands and shouting ‘no’ to every misbehaved customer you come across, that’s not what this is about. It’s less about the answers and more about the questions that YOU are asking.
Many years ago as a very young and eager Account Manager I learned what to this day may have been one of the most valuable lessons in my short but fruitful career: “give the customer what he/she needs, not what they want”. While it’s easier said than done in a world filled with ‘yes’s’ it may be a theory that is still ahead of its time.
Let’s put this theory to the test with a simple example:
Client: I need you to build me a report that captures criteria A - Z
Provider: No problemo! Overtime here we come.
Client: I need you to build me a report that captures criteria A – Z.
Provider: What are you specifically using this report for?
Client: My CFO needs to know why we’re spending so much capital on widgets that we end up tossing at the end of the year.
Provider: So it’s not that you need tons of data, but instead a report built to capture usage of an X time range? Maybe include an algorithm for forecasting?
Client: You’re my hero!
Yes I know it’s a goofy example, and we ALL do this today right? We ask the probing questions, challenge the customer, blah blah blah…or did you just need a quick refresher to remind you of how to say ‘no’ without really saying it…