You probably had to learn the lesson the hard way.  Most of us do.

You’re in the middle of creating a service offering and you reach out to your customers for help.  You ask potential buyers what they want for you to build for them.

And the discussion is a good one.

Buyers tell you their needs. Even how much they are willing to pay for what you are about to do for them. And you’re busy taking notes. Not wanting to miss a thing they say.

After all, getting this right means more revenue for you.  Lots of it.

But something happens in between that conversation and the important “when are you buying this” conversation you have with them. A conversation where you’re expecting them to give you money.  But they don’t.

They stammer. They stutter. They call a meeting with the rest of their group.  They pass you to the person who can help you make a decision. Out of nowhere a dozen problems seem to magically appear.

This conversation is certainly different than the conversation you had earlier where your buyer was all too desperate to pay for if you could build.

So what happened?

What went wrong?

It could have been several things.  Possibly happening at the same time.  So, it is important to understand what is going on in a situation like this. Here are some of the factors that you might not of considered:

  1. The potential buyer doesn’t have enough budget to pay for the tools that they really need.  While well-intentioned, they are misleading.  You can use these people to fuel innovation that other buyers have money to pay for.
  2. New company processes limit the potential buyer’s ability to make decisions like this anymore.  More structure means that you have to sell to more people.  The entire process is more frustrating.
  3. The potential buyer didn’t really know what they wanted.  They thought they did; but after thinking about it, the problem (and the solution) looks quite a bit different from the product that you are spending your time building.
  4. You took too long to build what the potential buyer wanted and so they chose one of your competitors.  This is your fault.  Plain and clear.  If you can’t deliver on promises then you shouldn’t be asking potential buyers what they want.
  5. The potential buyer changes his mind. It’s that simple.  When they talked to you, they were willing (in that moment) to pay you to solve their problem.  Now they aren’t.  Which stinks for you.  But you change your mind, so why can’t they?
  6. Competition and industry changes shift the priorities of the potential buyer.  Peer pressure is real.  It makes good people do rash things.  Sometimes those decisions aren’t in your favor.  Which is unfortunate.
  7. The end product that you deliver looks too ugly or doesn’t provide enough function to get the attention of your potential buyer.  What you delivered isn’t what you said you could deliver.  You can’t expect people top pay top dollar for a half-ass solution.

Most of these things aren’t out of your control.   You can plan and practice and prognosticate, but at the end of the day you have to get good at avoiding this situation or you are going to find yourself stuck and spinning in circles.

It’s not good enough to do what you’re told.

Just because potential customers tell you what they want doesn’t mean that they’re willing to pay for it in the future.  Even if they say so upfront. Times change. Priorities change. Management changes.

And that means unless you change along with them, you are bound to make this painful mistake one too many times.

Take the time to read-between-the-lines with potential buyers.  Ask them for help. But give them what they need. Not what they think they need.

Design flexible solutions that solve problems. Don’t create more problems along the way.

Venture boldly after new ideas that help make life easier for everyone you do business with.

In the end, those are timeless solutions that buyers pay for.