I continually interact with start-ups of all kinds. Because of the nature of the startup process and the focus on the “great idea”, the reflex can be to go straight to “solution” mode and then shoehorn that into as many problems as possible. This is particularly true of the tech space where so many “solutions” are in search of problems.

I’ve been in such meetings where the solution-provider focuses on the shiny tools rather than truly homing in on the challenges the client is facing serving their own clients.

This disconnect can be accentuated by the fact that the wrong people are often in such meetings with front-line staff often only informed of solutions when they are being implemented. This approach inevitably leads to both dissatisfaction and missed opportunities in many instances.

Serving First

Let’s be honest – prepackaged solutions are designed for the average client. And who exactly is this average client?

Averages just hide very divergent needs.

  • What if, instead, we shifted into listening mode in those early conversations?
  • What if we put the client’s challenges at the forefront?
  • What if our focus was on providing a meaningful and effective answer to their clients’ most pressing needs?

This serving first mentality thus requires us to have these conversations and then ask:

  • What are the client’s real challenges?
  • How might they better serve their own clients?
  • How might we contribute to this?
  • Might someone else better serve these needs?
  • Is enough value being created for us all to share in it?

The last point is key. You may find that the client has significant challenges, but that not enough perceived value, and hence profit, is unlocked for both organisations to share the value. The conclusion may well be that the client may do better partnering with other organisations who are better placed to serve them.

Long-Term Thinking

This approach is about the long-term. It is about stepping outside the immediate transaction and looking to build long-term relationships based on listening, understanding, trust and mutual benefit.

Whilst we may “lose” a sale now, we fortify our reputation in the marketplace and our ability to collaborate with the client in the future. We can even gain by asking them for a testimonial or a referral.

Questions in the Image:

  • What is the biggest challenge clients have?
  • How might they better serve their own clients?
  • How might we contribute to this?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink (link to Amazon.co.uk). This book provides a fresh perspective on the art and science of selling. Pink highlights the shift in sales dynamics in the modern age and emphasises the importance of understanding and empathising with client needs. The book offers practical insights, tools, and tips for effective and empathetic client interactions and negotiations.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day – just now, thinking of friends and family this question came to me Who around me could benefit from my support? How might they benefit? It has echoes of the idea of serving others we discussed above.

What Thoughts Would You Like to Share? My name is Tom O’Leary, and I envision a world in which curiosity shapes leadership. In this world, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning. My mission is to shift leadership focus from authority, over-measurement and control to curiosity, learning and innovation, empowering leaders to prioritise the essential. My journey, lived in a number of countries and through various languages, has always been driven by a profound sense of curiosity. In fact, life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential. I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.