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Mindreading client problems is the fastest way to lose business.

Published 25 days ago • 6 min read

Too long won' read? - Most consultants lose early stage opportunities because they 'mind read' the situation and prescribe solutions a client hasn't bought into.

Picture this: you're a seasoned B2B Consultant.

You've seen it all, solved complex problems, and helped businesses transform.

But here's a twist – sometimes new client conversations about the problems you're so good at solving don't quite lead to new clients.

Sounds familiar?

I was having this discussion with a client yesterday when we were delving deep into his Linkedin chat threads.

He was engaging with his ideal buyer persona on a Linkedin chat thread and wanted me to review what he'd said and what to do.

[If you'd prefer to read this on Linkedin you can do so by clicking here]

What we agreed he was doing is something that I see all too often - and not just in top of the funnel engagement activities.

He was making the mistakes of:

1. Mind Reading

After a few non committal answers to his questions the consultant (in chat) led with:

"It sounds like you may have a problem with x"

It's a logical thing to do because the consultant is an expert. He appreciates that most companies and people he targets have this problem.

The problem was though, the person on the other end of the chat had never articulated any such words.

They never said:

"we have a problem with x" or

"we are grappling with x" or

"we want to achieve Y but can't because of x"

I asked him to ask yourself - have they said there is a problem or were you filling in the blanks with your assumptions?

And until they vocalised that very thing you are always open to the following happening:

1. Alienating the other person because they don't feel listened too.

2. Not diagnosing the real problem and getting to the truth

2. Applying EXPERTISE Bias

Remember those times when you met a potential client, and before they even finished their story, you had the solution ready?

You were quick, confident, ready to impress. But, let me tell you, this approach might be where things started to slip through your fingers.

If you are an expert in your field of consulting then you have a big problem. It's a big problem that can cripple your client acquisition.

And the problem?

The problem is - you are an expert.

Let me explain.

You have seen every situation before, heard every question before and diagnosed every problem. It's second nature to you.

The challenge is though your expertise bias will lead you to jump in, make assumptions, mind read, cut off sentences and tell the prospect exactly what you think is going on.

And there in lies your fundamental mistake.

Here's an example:

Years ago I was a sales trainer. In the course I'd train telesales people how to handle objections. We'd drill on how to use language, logic, psychology and emotion to handle those objections.

The problem was the team would get so good at it they would be so over confident on the phone. They'd be fired up and at the mere hint of an objection from the other person they'd jump in and want to stop it in it's tracks.

That was as bad as not knowing what to say.

There are 2 Things You Can Do To Solve This Challenge

One of them is easy to do and one is hard and requires hard work, discipline and also self management and introspection.

1. Prepare - The Easy One

Yes - sounds obvious, but few do. I'll break it down in the context of what I was looking at with my client but the same process applies to every interaction you have.

The context was - engaging someone on a Linkedin chat to lead to a call.

Step One: Knowing Your Audience

The first step is understanding who you're talking to. Each client is unique, and so are their problems. Dive deep into understanding your ideal client profile. What makes them tick?

That's the basic stuff and now let's go deep.

If I was engaging a solo consultant and I asked a question about lead generation or client acquisition I know I'm likely to get a range of answers which will include:

  • I get all my business from referrals
  • I work as an associate and don't need to do business development
  • I'm maxed out at the moment so don't need to do business development
  • My client enquiries are dropping

And many more. All these are statements of the other persons view of fact and their reality.

I'm an expert in what I do so I know there are associated challenges with every single one of these statements if they are 'the real truth'.

I can't just jump in and tell them though.

  • I have no rapport yet.
  • They may not view these as a problem.
  • They may not be a problem.

It is my job to ask questions to find out:

1. Is that a problem

2. Does the other person acknowledge it's a problem

A real life example I had recently.

The consultant answered a Linkedin chat question with

"I get all my business from referrals"

I'm prepared and I have heard this a thousand times. I also know that a consultant that relies on referrals may have the following symptoms of the problem that they may not even be aware of:

  • Referrals rarely are an exact fit with your ideal client profile
  • Referrals are rarely into a high enough level of an organisation
  • Referrals typically happen after the company has done their own diagnosis which may be wrong. They then seek someone to deliver the preplanned solution - usually at day rates.
  • Referrals rarely happen at the precise time that you need them

And very often - all of the above.

If i just jumped in and said:

"It sounds like you may have a problem because consultants who rely on referrals struggle with inconsistent new client acquisition, usually they are aimed at lower levels of an organisation and sometimes it's a nightmare because the client has wrongly diagnosed the problem and only wants you to deliver a bad solution...

Then I'd lose the other person straight away.

So I asked a question along these lines:

"Ahh interesting. Do you find there are times when you need new clients that don't coincide with the referrals?"

I think that's a good question - even if I do say so myself :-)

I'm looking to understand their version of their reality and the impact. To which he preplied:

"To be fair - Yes. It happens quite a lot. In fact, I could do with a new client right now".

At this point I could jump in and say "I can help!"

But I still don't know if it's a problem and I still don't know if he has a solution in mind. So I asked:

"So when you increased activity in your formalised referral generation process, what happened?"

Another great question.

I know dam well that few consultants have a fomalised referral generation process. I can't just come out and say that to him though.

Imagine if I had said:

"[name] I guess you don't have a referral process that you can control the numbers so I'm guessing you have a problem"

That would have been conversation over.

Instead I worked on the basis that he was operating at the best case scenario and asked what happened if he applied the solution.

What happened was he echoed my thoughts. He replied:

"That's a bloody good question. I don't have a referral process"

And on we went.

Over time I have built up a whole workflow of these questions and then the possible answers and then the possible answers to those answers. I'm prepared.

Want to try me out?

Imagine we were in a Linkedin chat - I asked,

"What's working really well for you in new business generation right now?"

Drop your answer in the comments below (on linkedin) and I'll carry on the conversation.

2. Self Management - The Hard One

Pont 1 above is a skill based on preparation, Socratic questions and practice. The next step is pure self management.

You have to learn and be disciplined enough to carry on asking questions even when you know (think you know) what the solution is.

You have to learn and be disciplined enough to carry on asking questions even when every fibre of your being wants to shout out - STOP - Here is what you need to do.

As my client said yesterday:

"I have spent my whole career diagnosing these problems and It hurts to have to keep asking questions even when I know what the problem is."

That may be very true but it's what you must do if you want to close more conversations into clients.

So as we wrap this up the key takeaways are:

  • It is your job to get to the real truth
  • Along the way you HAVE to get the potential client to vocalise their version of the truth
  • You have to prepare
  • You have to be disciplined

If you are an expert at what you do then you are more likely to make these mistakes so heed them well!

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