It is a common refrain: 

“My clients come to me without knowing what they want. But I listen and learn and then I can guide them.”

There are two sentences there, and only one of them is correct. 

What clients want

When I come across a client expressing this sentiment I always pause for a minute, and suggest we examine that. 

What if we look at it differently: what if clients know exactly what they want. 

  • They want more clients
  • They want better clients
  • They want more time
  • They want to save money
  • They want to make money
  • They want productive employees
  • They want recognition
  • They want to be first
  • They want to be best

Clients know what they want, and even if they struggle to articulate it, they will know when they get what they want because it will make them happy. 

Anybody who has ever dealt with a disgruntled client should be taking note right now: they client didn’t get what they wanted, regardless of what they said. 

Take the time to understand what a client wants in their business and in their life, not just what they want in talking to you. 

What clients need

Only then can you start the “education” process. 

What your clients do not always know, is what they need. 

To achieve what they want, as listed above, they may need

  • A better website
  • A written sales process
  • Training and development
  • Less software
  • More software
  • Better systems
  • More protection
  • More reporting
  • Increased exposure
  • New products
  • New markets

And more. 

You offer a service in one of these areas. 

How you use your skills is what your clients need. Achieving their business outcome is what your clients want. 

Lost in translation

A big part of the problem is the conversation. 

Think of the first conversation you have with clients. When they come to hire you, they are trying to talk to you about what you do. 

Don’t let them. You’re the expert in that area; talk to them about their expertise, not yours. 

In the quote at the beginning, only the second sentence is correct. Listen to your clients, learn about their business, and learn about their expectations. 

Then use what they need to deliver what they want. 


You don’t just want clients: you want repeat clients. Learn to deliver both what they want and what they need with a Value Proposition consulting program