Don't Sell to People Who Don't Want to Buy

Some clients just don’t bite. No matter how good you are or how well-suited you are to meet their needs, there are clients who just won’t buy from you. Successfully selling professional services is largely based on personality and chemistry. In any given professional services sector, 60% to 70% of decision makers are a match for your skills and—more importantly—your personality. With the other 35%, something just doesn’t click.

It is good business to pursue the best (and highest spending) clients, but sometimes the chemistry is missing. While it’s hard to resist the lure of the one who got away, be careful to not let fantasy take over when there’s real money to be made elsewhere. Too frequently, we take refusal as a personal challenge. There’s a push to spend our limited resources on converting disbelievers who never intend to buy instead of focusing on the majority of buyers who are a good match. 

Are You a Chemistry Major?

The Big 4, prominent IT consulting firms, and leading management consultants are chemistry majors. Before engaging in a pitch, these organizations assemble hand-picked pitch teams. Using initial conversations and communications, a team is selected along 4 dimensions: industry knowledge, experience, skills, and anticipated personality fit.

You need 2 pieces of information in order to conduct a successful chemistry meeting:

  1. Understand the personalities and potential chemistry fits for the individuals at your organization.
  2. Understand the personalities and potential chemistry fits for clients and potential clients.

Achieving the first piece of information is relatively simple. The second piece is trickier.

The following questions take initial discussions with clients well past the scope of work to uncover what it will take to drive a valuable relationship:

  • In similar projects handled in the past, what issues have proven to be a particular challenge?
  • What lessons learned would you like us to keep in mind as we move forward?
  • What strategies adopted in the past are you comfortable—and uncomfortable—with?
  • What pressures or mandates have you received from management regarding this project?
  • Which competitors do you watch most closely?

Use this insight to assemble your best available resources for the pitch. Having client chemistry is the difference between a client paying premium rates and one second-guessing your every move. Which client would you want?

Which brings us back to our first point: don’t sell to people who don’t want to buy. If you have a hard time matching the chemistry of your organization to a client’s, warning bells should sound. Listen to them and move on. 

MBR/JPD