Is the client always right? the wants versus needs dilemma…

Is the client always right? the wants versus needs dilemma…

Is the client or customer always right? What do you do if a client asks you to provide a service to satisfy a want – yet you know that isn’t what they actually need?

This week I have had some great discussions with clients, with whom we have a strong and trusted relationship. They are happy for us as a business to challenge their thinking and coach them towards the best actions to help solve their needs – which is often very different to the initial ideas they had in mind (their wants).

But what if it is a prospective client, with whom you have not yet had the chance to build a relationship, and to demonstrate your competence, credibility and compatibility. If you know what they want is not really going to solve their challenge and/or create value for their business – and have a good idea of what they really need, what do you do?

Recently I had a conversation with a prospective new client which (to summarise in a very concise manner) went something like this:

Them: “We really want to invest in development for our people, as we haven’t done much in the past. We have a blank page really, but the partners have mentioned offering programmes and workshops in Leadership, Management, Business Development and developing better communication skills”.

Us: “Ok…great that you are looking to help your people grow. A few questions (I actually sent a lot more via email!):

  • What are you looking to achieve as a business? What is your strategy?
  • How have you decided on the areas of development you have mentioned? Is this senior management’s opinion or have you asked individuals about their challenges in role and what they really need to help them perform better?
  • What skills and behaviours are you looking for your people to demonstrate more of? How will these manifest themselves in performance?
  • How would you describe your current culture? Are the new behaviours and ‘ways of doing things’ that you are thinking about consistent with your culture?
  • How will behavioural change be ‘locked in’ by policies, procedures, performance management systems and reward?
  • Who, at a senior level, is going to own the change programme internally?
  • How are you going to engage your people with these interventions?
  • What would you like the programmes to look and feel like? What would the delegates want?
  • How will you measure success?”

Them: “Hmmm those questions are probably a step too far at the moment. We are just looking for a high-quality supplier to come in and run some great training programmes. This is what you do isn’t it? You know best. We have been talking to a couple of other providers who have given us their ‘off the shelf’ programmes which look perfect. So, could you send us some details of what your programmes would look like?”.

The thing is, we know that offering these solutions (to solve their want) will offer next to nothing in terms of return on investment.

Without clarity around the basic questions we asked, and without some of the fundamental steps, we outlined in the series of articles we recently published, explaining just why ‘Corporate ‘Training’ isn’t working’ – then these ‘programmes’ would be doomed to failure.

So.. the options are:

  1. Provide what they have asked for by doing as good a job as you can, knowing that ultimately it won’t really do much for the client or the delegates, get paid and walk away. (Totally against our values)
  2. Provide what they want – yet be relentless in pushing, coaching, persuading and influencing the client to take the steps and answer the questions to help them get more clarity over what they really
  3. Thank them and walk away, explaining that what they WANT will have little impact and as a business, we can’t contribute and add any value.


What would you do?

theGrogroup are experts in advising organisations on how best to improve performance by effectively executing and embedding required change. We do this through our proven approach

  • clarifying strategy and change needs
  • enabling people through experiences and resources to develop the skills, behaviours and mindsets to drive performance
  • creating the systems, processes and infrastructure to lock in change as the new normal.  

If you would like to discuss how we could help you in improving business performance, and individual and collective people performance, please email Kate or contact us to arrange a meeting with one of our expert consultants. No charge, just a chat over a coffee!