In the past two weeks, I have spoken to two business owners that have gone out of business. They both were closing their doors on the subsequent Friday after I spoke to them.
I spoke with one owner a year ago and he told me that his business was in jeopardy then. Margins were very low and his clients and customers were buying from larger organizations. He had nothing left to fall back on to provide for his customers as an alternative. We both knew he should have shifted his business long ago. He took no action to correct this. One year later, his business became a $10 million dollar problem without a possible solution. He and his business became a statistic that would have occurred regardless of the economic conditions. The economy just expedited what was inevitable.
The other business owner was noticing that all his clients were going out of business. His target market was manufacturers and distributors. He also took no action to correct this. His business is now another statistic that has repercussions that will affect many of us. This was another $10 million problem too late for any possible solutions.
From a business perspective, owners and their salespeople must continuously search out for the $10 million problems that their clients have as early as possible in the relationship. It's only when we search out the bigger problems and solve them, that we help ourselves, the clients, and eventually our economy.
Our dialog with our clients must be such that we uncover the realistic picture of their business which has embedded within it the bigger problem (and opportunity). We can then quantify the situation with the direct question to the client, "What is this problem costing you?"
If the problem is minor in dollar value, move on. If the problem that the client has is major, possibly in the range of a $10 million problem, then we can have an interesting conversation.
Some clients may tell us that their conditions cannot be easily solved. They'll tell us that money is scarce. That there is not enough time to implement solutions. That the competition has better products and services. True, those are conditions of the problem and they may also be great opportunities for creativity, only if there is time to take action. It is important to first uncover the magnitude of the problem before continuing to any solution. Many of us know this is important, yet many continue to focus on the lesser valued problems. The shift is to raise the focus that the client has to the bigger business picture, then asking the client to quantify the problem with a dollar value.
Here is a process that will assist to uncover the dollar value of the problem:
First, obtain a level of comfort and trust in you by the client. Then ask the question,"What is most important to you and your business?" Even if you think you may know, it's important for the client to express it in their own words. After receiving a response, ask again to uncover another value, "What else is most important to you in your business?"
Second, obtain the direction of their business. A question that has worked for me is, "So, where do you see your business going in the next 18 months? What would that look like to you?" The response to this question indicates how clear the client is about what they want in their future.
Third, obtain the meaning to getting to that future. Simply ask, "What would it mean to you to be able to get to that picture in 18 months?" In business, what has meaning becomes most important.
Fourth, uncover the obstacles that the client perceives. I often ask, "So what would you say is the biggest challenge that you're facing to get there?" This response indicates what the client anticipates struggling and solving to reach their objective.
Fifth, uncover the evidence procedure the client will have for reaching their objective. Ask, "How will you know that you have achieved your 18 month picture?" This is how the client will know they've reached their objective by quantifying the revenue dollars generated, the number of clients obtained, the market share increased or anything that is specific and measurable.
Sixth, now we ask the client to quantify their problem, "So what is this costing you or will cost you not to achieve this?"
The bigger the problems are then the higher the value in dollars to solve them. The salesperson, coach or solution provider has a tremendous opportunity to be purposeful and effective in assisting to uncover the size of the problem first and then together implementing the solution.
To make $1 million fee, uncover a $10 million problem and solve it. The client will determine what its worth to them to solve the problem. Sometimes, however, it may be too little or too late for a solution at any fee.
Go find a $10 million dollar problem today!