“We know what our clients want.” Really!!!


I asked the slightly over-confident MD the naïve question, “So, do you really know what your clients want?”

She replies, “I think that after 20 years in the industry that there isn’t much we don’t know about what they want”

“Really?” I reply slightly nervously.

She stares me in the eye, “I said that we know exactly what our clients want. We know more about what they want than they do”

My final reply, “Could you remind me about why we are meeting. Didn’t you say it was something about falling sales?”

Enough reporting behind people’s backs. But this is a common scene.

We, all of us, are convinced that we know what it is that our clients really want to buy. We then justify falling sales or a disastrous product launch with a variety of answers (delete where appropriate):

·       “Customers just didn’t understand what we were offering”

·       “They thought they wanted what our competitors were offering”

·       “They failed to see how great our benefits were for them”

·       “They weren’t ready – we were ahead of the curve”

Whatever the excuse, the fact is that most businesses do not 100% know what their clients really want.

If we make sales (possibly a fluke of events) then many attribute it to our awesome marketing and sales prowess. If sales bomb then we blame everything and everyone apart from ourselves. But maybe the answer is easier to find than we thought.

I suggest that often we do not know what our clients really want.

If we do make sales then all we know is that we are successful at apparently satisfying the needs of a self-selected audience (i.e the ones that buy). We have no idea about those that didn’t buy. Neither do we know why our customers did buy nor why the non-customers didn’t buy. We grab data and make massive assumptions and draw sweeping conclusions. And these may be positively harmful to your business.

So, do you know what your clients want? Really?

I suggest you go and talk to customers and non-customers and find out what their issues and problems and needs and wants are. Do not just ask about your product but get to understand their world. Only then can you see how you might fit in. But do not make the assumption that you know what your clients really want.

Do not be so smug, vain or arrogant!!!