As a salesperson, you’re trained to ask customers what they want in terms of your product offerings. That’s wise advice. However, if you only ask customers what they want and then give it to them, you’re missing the biggest opportunity that has ever come in front of you.

Realize that clients will always under-ask because they don’t know what is possible. Think about it…No customer ever asked for a fax machine. They didn’t know it was possible to send printed communication via a phone line. No customer ever asked for an iPod. They didn’t know it was possible to listen to music without some sort of CD or spinning device. People don’t ask for things that they don’t know exist.

Technology allows us to do things that were once thought impossible. So for salespeople, while it is important to ask customers what they want and then to give it to them, realize that by doing so you’re merely competing with your competitors. Chances are your competitors are asking customers the same questions, they’re getting the same answers, and they’re providing the same solutions. When that happens, you end up competing on price and not differentiating yourself.

Therefore, the Golden Rule of sales is to give people the ability to do what they currently can’t do but would really want to do if they only knew they could have done it. That’s so much more profitable than simply giving clients what they ask for.

The key is that you have to look a little bit further into your customers’ predictable needs based on where they’re going. Only then you can see unmet needs and new opportunities.

At this point many salespeople might say, “But I don’t create the products; I just sell them. How can I deliver what customers don’t know is possible?” The answer lies in how you can redefine various aspects of your offering. Consider redefining your product. Today, it’s not about high-tech; it’s about higher-tech. In other words, it’s not about your product; it’s about how your clients use it.

Think about the products you sell. Sure, your customers are probably using the product for what it was intended to do. But could the same product help in another department? Could it impact the effectiveness of the company in some other way? Could it do something else or something more for your customers? Analyze how people have always used your product and think of other creative applications. That’s how you redefine your product so it adds more value and does what no one ever thought to ask.

Next month, I will show you how to redefine your customers and the value you bring to them.