How do I find out what they value?

In response to Tuesday’s email, list member Stephen Kuenzli, founder of Qualimente writes:

“My question to you is:

How do I find out what they value?

“Just” ask?

Part of me is terrified to ask that question, and part of me thinks it’s easy.”

First off, “yes and yes.”

Yes, I’m also partially terrified to dig in in this way.

And yes, once you start down that path, things get easier… eventually.

There’s a part of everyone who provides a service that is fearful of discovering something that might turn your world upside-down… a.k.a. What you thought was the case is actually far from it.

Your pet theories dissolve before your eyes as your client says, “Yea we don’t really care all that much about that” to what you perceive to be the golden goose value proposition of your service.

I think there’s also a “don’t poke the bear” sense with some clients. You’ve locked them into some sort of recurring agreement… they’re fat and happy… and probing with some of these introspective questions may unveil a train of thought that “disturbs the peace.”

find out value

They might realize they’re not capitalizing on having you available as a resource, and start to ask for more.

They might realize that what you’re doing makes more sense to do in-house.

They might realize what you’re doing isn’t all that necessary after all.

Anyway, that’s just to say I don’t want to brush off the fact that turning over stones in this way won’t have consequences…

But I do want to highlight that the upside is usually worth it.

Along the lines of the “Is risk really risky?” question I asked earlier this week…

You want to engage in these “small conflicts” BEFORE you’re three years down the road and all of the sudden lose 50% of your billings because your client came to the conclusion that they don’t need you and you hadn’t spent the time to identify that risk and prepare ahead of time.

So… what was my reply to the original question?

“I just went through this process with a client on Friday. We identified a few things similar to what you wrote by:

  • Walking back through his most successful sales calls and client engagements
  • Observing those client’s behavior (e.g. what they email him about, what they ask him during on-site visits, what they get excited about, etc.)
  • Going back through testimonials previous clients have given and really trying to read between the lines

I’ve also been doing more client interviews for others lately using the B/D/A format… A lot of hidden insights spill out when you give people the right prompt and then let them run with it.”

But don’t just take it from me, there’s an entire field of study (Customer Development) dedicated to answering this very question.

My cobbled-together set of questions is one way to start to tackle this angle of inquiry, of which others have spent careers perfecting.

The good news is, it doesn’t take much to get started.

And in my experience, even one single high-quality conversation in which a client or prospect reveals what they really value can almost instantly change the trajectory of your service in a positive direction.

(Notice I said “trajectory,” not necessarily “results”… You may, like I have had to, take two steps back before you take three steps forward.)

So, I’m curious:

What other questions on this topic bubble up for you?

Email me at and let me know because I’m working through this too.

P.S. Stephen writes a 3x-weekly email that is an excellent example of how you can explore a highly technical subject matter in a way that serves your audience, as well as demonstrates your expertise, WITHOUT boring everyone to death. Check it out here if you’re interested

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