Last evening, I attended a networking dinner with a friend of mine. We were engaged in a light conversation with a gentleman when out of the blue my friend launched into a pitch about a joint project we were working on. Very quickly, it became evident that this guy was not a prospect for our services. My friend threw the ball to me hoping I might try another approach. I opted to wrap things up instead. I acknowledged this might not be the solution for the prospect, but asked if he should know of anyone that might find our services helpful to please keep us in mind.
By closing down the pitch, it allowed the third-party a graceful exit. He didn’t have to say no. And it gave him an opportunity to be helpful if he should so choose. I have found that most people genuinely like to be helpful. They may know someone who might be more suitable for offering and make an introduction. “You should meet Bob, his company is growing and you might be able to help him…”
In hindsight, what went wrong? My friend never established if there was an unmet need. Instead, he pitched a solution. Did anyone need this solution? Obviously, not the guy we were chatting up. This all could have been avoided with a few questions to the prospect. Before you offer a solution, you must determine what need is not being met, or if there is a gap in satisfaction in the product, good, or service that is being offered in the marketplace.
Ideally, you want to lead the conversation from small talk to what are the prospect’s unmet needs. Start with a few light probing questions to see where the prospect is at. How is business? What are you working on? Based on his willingness to share or not, will determine whether you probe deeper for an unmet need.
If the prospect shares more or self-identifies an unmet need, then you have an opportunity. Does your product or service do something for him that no else can do? Can you do it better than the competition? If you cannot answer these basic questions, then you need to stop what you’re doing and listen until you can.
Once an unmet need has been identified – and you can say yes to above questions, then you make a pitch.