Everyone knows that the first step towards any sale is identifying a need. The key question, of course, is how to do that.Simply put, there are 2 types of needs:
- Needs your customer knows they have
- Needs your customer does NOT know they have
Let’s first look at a need your customer knows he has.
Sales Rep: How happy are you with the service you are receiving? (The closed-style version of this question, which will solicit an even poorer, 1-word response, is “Are you happy with the service you are receiving?”)
Prospect: When faced with this question, the customer is either happy … and should be or unhappy! Easy enough.
The problem is most customers don’t know all their needs. They may say they are happy … but it’s because they don’t know other options exist out there (so … they don’t know what they don’t know).Needs your Customer does NOT Know They Have
Relying on your customer to know all their needs may mean missing many opportunities. I am certain the needs they “don’t know” outnumber the needs “they know” so it is our job to ask the right questions.
Now, let’s re-write a dozen different questions in a way that will help your customer realize needs they may not know they have.
These questions have been written to match different areas of business.
Finance: When was the last tax savings discussion your investment advisor had with you?
Operations: What was the last productivity improvement initiative you did on your assembly line? What % savings did you see?
Operations: How does your current provider help ensure that the products you buy from them are used correctly and successfully?
Technology: What is your downtime rating? What are you doing to improve it?
Sales Management: How well can you gauge and measure the performance of your sales team?
Sales Training: What do you think your best sales person does well that makes him/her successful? What gaps do the others on your sales team have in comparison?
Marketing: Which recent marketing investments generated real quotes and sales for your company? How did you measure that?
eMarketing: How are you measuring your Google ranking? What is your team/service provider doing to increase it?
Administration: What reports do you get that show you how to better buy your office supplies?
Service: What was the last creative idea your supplier came to you with to help save you time and/or money OR improve their service to you?
There are many needs that a customer “does NOT know they have”. While that gap may or may not be important to them, your questions will, at a minimum, create dialogue.
When developing these questions, remember, that the question(s) must be framed to help uncover/ lead them to your difference, your unique offering.
If your value proposition is that you do complimentary quarterly audits with your bigger customers on how to better buy their office supplies (which will save them time and money), then your question could be “What reports do you get from your current supplier that help you buy your office supplies better?”But … Is their “Need” really just a “Want”? What’s the Impact?
There is one pitfall though. You need to be sure that it’s a “need” – not just a “want”. Pure curiosity without a real need or valued impact, can lead you down a time-wasting path. A “want” can often take just as much of your time with communication, quoting, presentation, follow up, etc… but closes at a far lower rate. That can mean lots of work, and many opportunities you are working on but not enough sales. Your funnel is full but your results are not there.
So, when you have gained the customer’s interest, be sure to follow up with your impact, hurdles and timing questions.
Below, are some impact questions – written to cover different areas of business to match the “needs” questions asked prior!
Finance: How would having a better understanding of the tax laws help you?
Operations: Where could productivity improvement have the biggest impact in your plant?
Technology: Which piece of technology, if down, will have the greatest impact/consequence?
Sales Management: What would you do with sales performance information if it was available to you? How would the information be used to grow your business?
Sales Training: How much more revenue does your strongest sales person bring? As a result, how much money do you think the other, lower performing sales people, leave on the table?
Marketing: What are you expecting your marketing activities and investments to do for you?
eMarketing: How much more revenue would a top 5 Google ranking generate?
Administration: If you got an office supplies usage report, how would that help?
Service: How would your business benefit from these ideas?
Of course, it is easier and safer to ask “are you happy” or “what projects do you have going on” but, as this module explains, this approach can result in conversations ending too quickly, relying too heavily on your customer’s own assessment of their needs and missed opportunities.