When Opportunities Arise, Do Clients Think of You?

The Situation

Phil is a sales rep for a large painting contractor that specializes in hotels and motels. He checks with his clients regularly to be sure that they are happy and his service is first-rate. Right now, he’s making the rounds, offering a promotional opportunity for hotels willing to sign long-term contracts.

Missed Out

Phil calls on Diane, who is responsible for hotel room décor for a regional chain. Her office is located in one of her company’s larger properties. As he walks in, Phil notices workpeople installing new wood flooring in the lobby area. Phil’s company has a supplementary business that installs wood floors, although it doesn’t come up very often for hotels or motels.

Phil: Diane, why didn’t you call me for a bid if you wanted wood floors for your lobby?
Diane: I thought you were strictly a painting company. I didn’t know you could handle this kind of work.
Phil: But, Diane, it’s part of decorating. We don’t do a lot of wood floors for your industry, but I wish you had asked me about it. We have a lot of experience.
Diane: I didn’t know that!
Phil: It’s in our brochure. It’s on our website. I must have mentioned it.
Diane: Phil, nothing personal, but I’m already your customer. I rarely visit your site. Sorry. I just didn’t think about you when we decided to remodel.

How Could Phil Have Gotten That Call?

Phil could kick himself for being complacent about this client. He could have sent Diane updated brochures and e-mails with links to the Web site to remind her of all his company’s services. However, a Q4 needs-based approach to selling would have helped the client to consider him as resource beyond painting. What Q4 collaborative skills apply?

You Can Become the Solution

Phil’s sales approach has been to position himself as a provider of specific services. In this case, he’s strictly a painting contractor. It would require Diane to take the initiative to think of Phil for other services he might provide.


Being known strictly for one product or service pigeonholes Phil, regardless of information on his Web site. And that’s bad for business. But Phil could build more profitable relationships by positioning himself as the solution to customers’ needs — a much broader resource. If Diane had thought of Phil as a problem solver, she might have called or e-mailed him about her flooring project.


Take a Q4 collaborative approach to be more top of mind. This is how a salesperson can become a key differentiator through probing.


Often, salespeople have too narrow an agenda for a sales call: They try to control the meeting so they can present their products or offer a deal. However, by involving customers more and listening to them, you can assess their needs. You make customers the center of your efforts. They start viewing you as someone who can provide the answers.


Meet Service and Personal Needs

Probing and listening do much more than uncover customers’ specific concrete needs, such as wood floor installation. They help you size up customers’ personal needs as well. Diane may feel a strong personal need to show her boss that she does her job well. She may have security needs to feel confident when making sound decisions about hiring contractors.


Thus, she may be appreciative that Phil shows an interest in her, and not just about painting hotel rooms. She may come to regard Phil as the go-to person when other remodeling questions arise. The more Phil probes to discover her needs, the more likely he will learn what they are; in the process, she may feel she wants to continue this professional relationship when contract renewal time comes around.


Probing and showing a genuine Q4 interest in customers not only identifies sales opportunities, it also helps build a strong relationship on which customers will rely.