I heard a salesperson say something fascinating (and disturbing) today. He said, “And it’s really important for us to learn about our clients needs when we have our new client kick off meeting.What? When we have the kick off meeting?You’re probably wondering how the salesperson wins new business. He wins new business through an RFP process executed and operated by brokers. He is universally behind the sales process. In this process, everything the buyer wants is detailed in a request for proposal. The sales organization generally has to agree to everything in the request proposal as a condition of being allowed to compete (or, more accurately, provide pricing). But if all the needs are captured in a request for proposal why wouldn’t those needs be known before a kick off meeting? And the answer is simple: the kick off meeting is where the buyer and seller interact for real for the first time; it’s where the discover their real needs.In FrontSelling from behind the process is terrible. It’s terrible for sales organizations. And it’s terrible for organizations that are buying. Without truly understanding the client’s needs, the sales organization is set up to fail. They haven’t done the work that would allow them to succeed, and they’re still behind even after having won. In fact, they may not have been the right choice to begin with. They may just have been the best show horse the boardroom.This salesperson’s organization churns clients. They lose accounts through the deep dissatisfaction that usually starts about six months into their contract. The reason they have a systemic problem with churn is because they’ve adopted a process that doesn’t allow them to know their customer and their real need, and that same process doesn’t allow the customer to know there suppliers real solution or capabilities.If you’re just learning about your clients needs at kick off, you’re both way behind. In human relationships and complex business dealings, slow is fast and fast and slow.QuestionsHow much time do you spend really understanding your dream client’s needs?Mistakes are made, but whose fault is it if you are surprised at your dream client’s difficult demands after having won?How do you get in front of the sales process when your buyer’s process is at arm’s length?