Offer clients what they NEED not what they WANT

by Gillian Pritchett on July 14, 2010

Yes, you did read the title of this post correctly. No, I have not got it the wrong way round.

I’m questioning the wisdom, not to say the ethics, of only offering clients what they WANT.

I was thinking last night – everyone goes on about how we must offer our clients what they WANT not what they NEED. On-line marketing ‘experts’ are selling programs and processes to help us truly discover what our clients WANT and offer them what they WANT (and make more mo*ney). The word NEED seems to have almost become tabou – we should never offer clients what they NEED – heaven forbid that we dare to do this. Everyone seems to be caught up in this ‘mantra’ and no-one seems to be really questioning it or at least not publicly.

I’m questioning it.

This all started with a conversation I was having with Karen Skidmore (of CandoCanbe) over on her blog where I suggested that perhaps those of us that are nurturing by nature and/or involved in teaching tend to want to give someone what we know from experience they need whereas someone in sales is more hard nosed and quite comfortable just offering clients what they want.

I’ve often been approached by people I know in Montreal asking me for help in preparing a business plan or getting their business started except – they haven’t even validated their business idea or checked whether they would be able to raise the money to fund it. Now if you’re Sir Richard Branson then sure you can just jump in – there is money in the kitty,  but the average person starting a business cannot afford to jump in and discover that there’s insufficient demand for the product or service they want to offer or the price tag would not enable the business to be sustainable.

So yesterday when Ed Dale (the 30-day challenge) said: The biggest mistake people make is that they rush in and build a business based on an idea they are attached to, without doing the necessary research to determine the viability of that idea,  I’m thinking Hallelujah – let’s hope thousands of people read this and realise that it takes as much energy and time to launch a successful business as an unsuccessful one so, may as well make it a successful one. I share this in my status on FB and the debate begins. Wholehearted agreement that people should check out the viability of a business idea before they start the business.

This then takes us back to my point about offering the client what they WANT or offering what they NEED. Those of us who have been in the world  of business start-ups for a good number of years know you NEED to validate your business idea but we also know that the average person WANTS to start a business – today and is not going to start validating, evaluating anything. So – do we help them with what they WANT – perhaps a full blown and not inexpensive business plan when a feasbility study that takes less time, costs less is what they NEED. And if we do – what are we ? we’re giving them want they WANT after all so the gurus would tell  us we are SERVING our customers.  Sorry ! I don’t think you’re  serving anyone but yourself. You are serving yourself to money by providing a service someone WANTS but does not NEED. You ARE however, serving your customer if you explain that they need to validate their business idea as a first priority – which for the record is what I always do even though it loses me income.

So here’s my question to you:  if we give clients what they want, we make money BUT we are not serving them honestly & ethically if we know they need something else. So…should we change to a new mantra – help your client understand what they need don’t give them what they want ? 

Oh and here’s a second question – how do we get people to understand that what they WANT is not always what they NEED ?

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