Recently I had an interesting conversation over lunch with a few colleagues, all of us with many years of experience in the same industry. Initially it all went the usual way – we complained about the lack of demand for our products and how the clients didn’t understand the real value of these products. The usual statements were made like, for instance, the products are too complex, the mentality of the buyers needs to change, we need to educate our clients, if only the clients understood the products better they would see how much they actually need them… On and on basically about the same thing – problem of sluggish demand is caused by the clients. Convenient position, isn’t it?
Then I asked a simple question – why do the clients buy our products at all? What motivates them to voluntarily spend their money on this purchase? I must admit, this provoked a heated debate. Remember, all of us at the lunch table were experts of the industry. There were four of us. I received three different answers to my simple question… How can this happen? Professionals, presumably, should have a very solid understanding of such a basic thing as their industry’s clients motivations and needs. Yet, professionals are also humans. We all have our own fundamental assumptions for everything, not just our purchasing choices. When thinking about other people (if and when we indeed do it) we tend to focus on our assumptions and project them onto others. This happens even among the most experienced professionals, unfortunately.
If there is only one conclusion to be drawn from this small opinion-poll over lunch, then I think it is this – the problem of sluggish demand is not caused by the clients. It is caused by the mismatch between fundamental assumptions of those who offer the product and of those who buy it. If we don’t get our most basic assumptions clear, we are very likely to get lost. Not just in business – in life too. So let’s not be reluctant to ask that one extra “why” next time we want to understand someone. Even if it all seems crystal clear to from our point of view.