A young woman fresh out of college walked into a hardware store and asked for directions to the aisle for drill motors. She was politely given directions to aisle 17 on the right side. When she arrived, she asked a person in the aisle with a uniform for suggestions on what drill motor to buy. He went on for minutes about chuck size, motor torque, battery versus plug-in and more. Somewhat confused, she chose a 1/2 inch, battery-powered, electric drill motor.
Next, she moseyed over to another section to look at drill bits. Wow! What a selection to choose from. Another person helped her understand the differences among forstner bits, cement drilling bits, wood bits, and more. Again, somewhat overwhelmed, she chose a wood drill bit of 3/8 inch that would fit in the 1/2 inch chuck drill motor in her basket.
Now, she needed a screw or bolt or something. She found the way to that aisle and was completely overwhelmed with the choices. Again, someone with some experience helped her to understand all the different options for screws into mortar or wood and plaster, sheet metal screws and toggle bolts. She finally chose something that seemed right for the occasion and headed for the self-checkout area.
Following that she put it all in the car and drove back to her new apartment, ready to decorate it and make it feel like her home for the next few months or years.
So, what did this customer want? Did anyone ever ask what she was wanting to accomplish? Was she looking for a drill motor? Or a drill? Or a screw? Nope, she just wanted to hang a macramé holder for the plants she wanted to brighten up the living space.
My wife’s first response when I shared this with her was that the young lady should have told the first person what she, ultimately, wanted to accomplish. My response is that clients often come to a coach with something very specific in mind. They know what they want, but not what they need. Further, each person in each aisle may be incentivized to sell the items in their area of expertise, without regard to the overall happiness of the customer. Someone selling CRM software wants to sell more CRM software, not HR software or an outsourced business development project.
Make sure YOU understand what a customer wants to accomplish.