Use pushback to make the case for action now

Do clients take forever to choose one of your offers?

They tell you they’re not ready.

They don’t return calls, they ignore your emails.

One consultant told me her firm has had people come back 8 months later after being completely non-responsive.

Pushback is a technique that can light a fire under those folks.

The 6 Questions

You’re asking the 6 Questions that help you find great fit clients.

When you ask Question 2 “what’s going on that made you think to call us?” you listen carefully and take good notes.

You continue with Question 3 “Is this an annoyance/inconvenience or is it on your Critical path?”

They choose, and then you ask Question 4 “If we help you with this, how significant would it be to you, using a scale of 1-10?” You again listen carefully and take good notes.

You have a lot of what you need to design your 3 offers for the Choice Framework (assuming they have money to pay you).


Take your time.

Do a bit of pushback.

What’s pushback?

It’s digging deeper  into their “why we called you” answer and their annoyance/inconvenience or Critical path answers.

They key is to get at emotion, not to get more “information.”

A company called my client, Jim, an HR consultant, because they were having some difficulty with an employee. The company said the problem was on the critical path, and felt they were stuck.

When Jim pushed back here’s what happened:

Client: “We gave this employee an improvement plan and provided some personal mentoring, and still they are failing to be productive. They make clients wait too long.”

Jim: “Are you making progress or are you stuck?”

Client: “This has been going on for six months. We’re stuck.”

Jim: “On a continuum of 1-10, if we addressed the issue helpfully, what would it mean to your company?”

Client: “It would be about 9.”


At this point Jim could have stopped.

But he had a sense inertia or indecision would keepthem stuck.

He needed to jolt them into action.

Jim: “I hear you say you’re stuck, and it’s important for your clients. I’m wondering what’s the impact if you don’t fix it? If you let this person keep on doing what they’re doing.”

Client: “Well, the client they work with is our biggest client. They are threatening to find another provider. We would lose about 25% of our revenue. It would be a disaster.”

This is the crux of the matter: losing 25% of revenue!

The client went on to say, “it would take us years to replace that revenue.”

When Jim wrote his 3 offers in the Choice Framework, he was able to highlight both the significance of the problem and the urgency.

Part of IMPACT PLUS was to retain this revenue (the outcome) that would allow the firm to ensure the financial security they needed for growth (the IMPACT).

Let the client tell you what to say

Jim used the client’s own words to emphasize what was at stake: “It would be a disaster” and “it would take us years to replace that revenue.”

Jim chose a short deadline to emphasize the urgency. He read into the client’s conversation that they tended to dither and delay. After all, this employee problem had been going on for six months, long enough and badly enough that the client had threatened to leave.

The client had a few questions and accepted the IMPACT PLUS offer before the deadline.

Pushback made a difference

In our following conversation, Jim said he thought the pushback technique made the difference between a quick acceptance and not.

The client repeated their own words about a disaster and revenue several times,

Clearly that was a deep sore spot that needed to be addressed quickly.

Other examples of pushback are:

“I hear this is important, but is it really? Your firm must have much bigger challenges to address.”


“I get that you’re struggling, but why don’t you work on it yourself?”

The client’s response is likely to be much more emotional than logical.

That’s what you want.

Something like “My boss will get on my case if I don’t fix this.”

Or “The Chairman of the board is losing his patience with me. I can’t afford to let this go on.”

Or: “I’ve heard rumors of a takeover. If I don’t get this problem resolved, I could be the one responsible for the company failing to be acquired. There’s so much at stake.”

It’s your turn

Think through your typical conversation with a current client about a new opportunity or with a prospect for a first engagement.

Add some notes to your copy of the 6 Questions that remind you to pushback a bit.

Focus on eliciting an emotional response by asking a version of “What if you don’t fix it?”

Use those answers in designing your 3 offers in the Choice Framework.

You’ll increase your chances of lighting a fire under the client and getting them to accept one of your offers.

Need help? Text PUSHBACK to 703-801-0345.

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