By Andrew Neitlich

Don’t read your prospect’s mind

By Andrew Neitlich

Here is an interesting observation:

Many times, prospects call me and ask me if my programs do X or Y (i.e., in the case of my Boxing Fitness site, do I provide Continuing Education Units? Or, is my Certification accepted in gyms in Great Britain). Usually the answer is “no,” so when I get these questions, I cringe. I fear I’m not going to get the sale.

But I just answer honestly, without trying to sell, and a funny thing happens:


Many people sign up any way!

The same thing happens when I sell larger projects. People ask tough questions about services I may not offer, or ask if I can reduce my price, and the correct answer is “no.” So I say, “Sorry, but no.” And people often buy any way.

So don’t assume that because someone is getting a negative answer that they won’t buy. Don’t assume that they need that feature. Just stand your ground and answer honestly. People respect that, and often still buy. Sometimes they just want to know.

There are other examples of reading the prospect’s mind that can get you into trouble. If you assume that a prospect wants a certain feature and build that into your proposal, you can lose the sale by adding something they don’t want. For instance, I recently got called in to do some organizational development work for a University. I wanted to try out a new cultural assessment tool, and thought the client would love it. But this tool made them very uncomfortable and I almost lost the sale — until I spoke with them openly about it, found out their concerns, and pulled it out of scope.

Don’t assume you know what your client wants or is thinking. Have open, honest conversations with them and stand on equal footing when you do. Your sales will go up because you’ll understand what they do and don’t want, and what their real concerns are.

  • Spot on Mate! I very much have the same experience. :)

  • beeing honest when you talk to the prospects makes them take the right decision (they will know if you are lieing or not from your face or the tone of your voice). so they will get what they were told about. and they will be happy for using your service. so all that can get you more customers.
    on the other hand, the others who lie about what they provide as a service, will get a very bad reputation and will lose customers.

    thank you andrew.

  • Anon

    Great way of doing things. I have seen way too many cowboys before who will say yes to anything just to get a sale, then spend more time developing excuses than solutions

  • I have a hard time saying no, I often think that even if I do drop my price or have to spend more time doing additional features that it will pay off in the end (by getting the client, and their referals). However, I am finding out now that I am getting burnt out on all the extra features and attention and having a hard time catering to the new clients all together…

  • Lola_Designa

    Agree totally-I used to fudge my pricing depending on what I thought a client would or wouldn’t pay, or what I thought was a lot of money, and I found myself working hard making little.My turning point was when a client asked me to do an additional project for her, and I took a while to get back to her because frankly I was uncomfortable with the amount of money the new project would cost her (she had already spent quite a bit with me), and she emailed me and said, “I need to hear back-cost is a non issue, but time is an issue. Bill me what it costs and let’s get to it”-a pleasant kick in the pants that made me realize it was better to be upfront than to be self-sacrificing. She’s still one of my best clients years later!

  • webnology

    I recently had this same experience. I made a quote for a financial magazine, and there were some features taht the client wanted which I could not deliver. He also asked to lower the price. Bith my answers were ‘no’ (with a bit of explanation of course), and we happily went on with the project, which will still be a perfect fit for his goals. And the price stayed. Clients always try to lower the price, and they should, they’re in business too. But stick to your price, if it’s a fair one.

  • I agree. Honesty is allways the way to go, and don’t try to oversell your products. Establish a dialog with clients instead of guessing why they ask for features. Ask what the purpose a specific feature serves for the client and what kind of value this feature has for the client. Don’t assume that they acturally want or need a feature just because they mention it.

  • etechsupport

    It is also important to bring predictability or measurability before you are going to respond a client, they actually expect an intelligent reply rather than a formulaic answers. Make some exception that create long-term win-win situations between you and your customers.

  • Anonymous

    Is not just about honesty. It is about what customer realy need.

    It is same in life. I been dumped many times beacose I tried to read girld mind.

    And first thing what I’m saying to prospect is – I do not read mind.

    When we clear that, I have very open conversation whit him (or her) talking about their needs. And their needs must be fullfiled. If I think that they need something, I call them, discuss about it, count the costs etc… When they pay me, I understand that as prize form making them happy. And when they are happy once, they’ll want to be happy again!

  • Matt

    I own a medium-sized web design company, and after spending hours on the phone with consultants I can say the same thing… Yes, predictability and measurability, yes to getting to know client’s needs and preferences (after all, I’m designing the website FOR the client), but most importantly you need to organize your operations. Pricing is 0the ultimate last step. I found a few top-notch consultants through http://www.lammazing.com and they told me straight up: “You may have the best pricing method, or the ultimate employee screening process, but who takes care of things like compliance management, auditing (pre-emptive), accounting and bookkeeping, and Inernet law? If you cannot organize these operations, you can be the best employee screener, appraiser, etc… and still fail miserably. And that’s the reality.

  • In my business, it’s really about listening to the customer and understanding (whether they do or not) what they are trying to achieve by having a website.

    Eric Shmookler

  • adamnldt

    This comes down to fundamentally believing in your suite of services. If what you have is viable, that’s all you need to do. One reason I started my own company was because I got tired of working places that said yes to everything, then tried to figure out how to do it after the fact.

    The temptation is there constantly now, but I will not, under any circumstances tell prospects we will do something that we don’t. You are just asking for trouble and a lot of unnecessary headaches.

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