Need vs. Want: When clients need help… but don’t want to pay

Written by: Karl Sakas

When you’re frustrated by a prospective client, it’s often because they need your help… but don’t want your help.

Successful relationships require clients who Need and Want your agency’s help.

No matter how great someone sounds on paper, no one’s truly a qualified prospect unless they want to pay your agency to help them now.

Until you recognize—and act on—this, you and your sales team will waste time on bad prospects. Fortunately, there are five things you can do once you realize there’s a need but not a want. Let’s take a closer look!

Sales Success = Need + Want

Think about when seemingly-interested prospects have disappeared into The Abyss. In rare cases, they lied about their budget.

More often, they have the budget—yet they think they can handle it themselves (typically a poor assumption on their part), or they think your help isn’t worth it. In some cases, other things came up, and getting help isn’t a priority any more. They aren’t feeling urgency.

The medical example? When someone breaks their arm, they need and want a doctor’s help. But when they have a suspicious mole on their arm, they might need an exam… but they aren’t as likely to want to go immediately. It just doesn’t feel like a priority to them.

The exact reason will vary, but it’s often around the same theme—your bad prospects aren’t motivated enough to urgently want your help to move forward today.

They’re just not that into you

It’s the business equivalent of the dating trope—“S/he’s just not that into you.” Your prospective clients have a need for marketing help. But they won’t hire you unless their need is also a want.

I see this in my consulting. An agency employee will occasionally reach out, asking for my help. From what they share, their boss definitely needs help, and it sounds like the agency could afford my help. Yet it becomes clear that their boss doesn’t want help.

The same is true for your agency’s clients. We can apply this in sales, but also client services (do clients want long monthly reports?), recruiting (does a strong candidate want the job you’re offering?), and new service lines (do clients want to pay for your helpful new service?).

5 solutions to Need vs. Want at your agency

If you meet a prospect who needs your help but doesn’t want to pay for it, what can you do? Here are some short- and long-term options.

  1. Fast failure: Commit to “fast failure” in your sales qualifying process—if someone’s not a fit now, don’t keep trying to sell them. Maybe they’ll go somewhere else… but then they’re wasting someone else’s time.
  2. Picky on proposals: Never send proposals unless someone confirms they have a budget—they’re not ready. And avoid sending proposals without the prospect’s pre-signoff on specific budget ranges.
  3. Use email nurtures: Create a marketing automation email nurture to help on-the-fence prospects through the process—going from “need” to “want.” You won’t convince everyone—but now you’ve downgraded [most of] the persuasion process to email automation, instead of requiring live time from you or your sales team.
  4. Craft a case study: Looking at your past clients, create a case study that highlights how they thought they could do it themselves, then came to realize they needed and wanted your help… and hiring you was the key to meeting all their goals.
  5. Adjust your marketing: Do you keep getting prospects who need but don’t want help? Take a hard look at your self-marketing—something is attracting those unqualified prospects.

Question: How do you handle sales prospects who need help but don’t want it?

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