Sales – 7 Examples of When it is OK to Tell the Client What to do.

When is it OK to tell a client what to do?

Sales process traditionally is a game of two halves.  The first is the ‘finding out phase’ where sales people go about asking specific questions to the client in order to find out the needs, wants, problems and the like. The second is the ‘showing how’ phase, is the time when the sales person actually sells their product or service, matching it up to the needs of the client and then asking for or closing the business.

There are times when the client, may not really know what their needs are, sounds strange, however it can be true.  They could have just been curious about the sales persons business and wanted to sound it out. This can stump a sales person as the traditional questioning phase can be labored for the client and it could alienate them, as it will feel like an interrogation.  These clients might be looking for a different approach.  They might be seeking advice or it could be time to be brave, and tell the client what they need to do.

Now before I say anymore, let’s take a moment to think this through.  If we think about other sectors where selling takes place, and yet the people selling do not think of themselves as sales people, then telling the client what to do is actually quite common.  Let me elaborate. If you were to engage a lawyer for the conveyance of your new home, or you were to need a will sorting out then you would actually expect them to advise you of the best course of action. This advising is actually telling the client the right way to go about things. The same could be said of an accountant or a web designer.


What sets these apart and yet really doesn’t is the expertise that they hold and that the customer often approaches them first.  The customer also has the preconception that when engaging a lawyer or other professional services that they are going to be expensive. They know this and hence they don’t discount.

This expertise can afford them the luxury of charging premium rates for their services and gives them the permission to tell/advise the client what to do; and guess what, the client not only listens to the advice, they often heed it and then pay for it without negotiation.  This in my simple brain is ultimate sales value.

Sales people are trained to sell, and yet often they hold massive levels of expertise in the areas they work in. I have heard amazing conversations between advertising sales executives talking to clients about the way things work and then before the client has even asked, offered up a discounted rate.  In retail we see people working in areas of high worth such as kitchens and bathrooms, offering amazing knowledge and expertise and then crumbling when the client says they can buy cheaper online.  Then we see sellers to the trade who have huge amounts of merchandising expertise and market knowledge offering ridiculous discounts.  It is times like these, that sales people must identify that knowledge and expertise has a price tag. It is not something we just give away it is something offer and can then advise or tell the client the best course of action.

Sometimes clients expect sales people to tell them what to do, after all they have expertise on their own business, but how many of these clients are trained in how advertising works, or how kitchen or bathroom installation happens or even how colour psychology plays a role in merchandising? Sales people must be more confident in not giving away knowledge and expertise without first understanding the power it has in terms of value to the client. In turn it can then be used as a negotiation variable and can offer great benefit to the client.


Many sales people may not be comfortable telling a client what is best for them, so to help build confidence and just to keep things nice and polite, ask permission. “Would it be appropriate for me to offer some advice?” The client will either say yes or no, in my experience they say yes, which confirms your position as having expertise and opens doors in terms of buying signals and moving the sale forward. We can also read the behaviour of clients and spot opportunities to tell or advise.

SerialTrainer7 signs of when it could be OK to tell the client what to do.

  1. When the client starts asking you lots of questions relating to the technical aspect of your job.
  2. When the client trusts you so much that they say, “What would you do if you were in my position?”
  3. When the client is being overly cautious and comes across as unsure, this would be where you would ask permission to advise.
  4. When the client informs you that they have never used your type of product or service before and could be seeking some sort of confirmation that they are doing the right thing.
  5. When the client tells you that they are seeing other suppliers, this can be a cue to offer advice if you have been in this situation before and therefore want to come across as more collaborative. It stops you from directly selling against the competition, instead standing true to the value you offer and therefore becoming the standard by which other competitors will be measured.
  6. If the client is dithering and taking time to make a decision, this can be a cue that the client could back out and err on the side of safety and not move ahead. Offering advice that helps to reassure or give proof of what you do can help.
  7. When you categorically know the client is wrong, or about to make a huge error of judgement or has been misinformed. This one needs a level of bravery as the client may feel they are right. Tread carefully ask a couple of questions around where they have found things out. Be careful not to directly contradict, add in that you too have heard similar things to support them, then offer up that you have newer or additional information they might find useful.

To conclude, know your value, offer advice, value your own expertise as a chargeable commodity and don’t be scared to tell the client what to do. Thanks for reading and if your business needs sales training get in touch with me

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