It’s often said that the most important part of the sales process is requirements analysis. You’ll hear companies refer to it as needs analysis as well. The terms seem to be interchangeable, yet they mask a crucial difference.

If you don’t know what your prospective customer’s requirements are, it’s hard for you to establish how good the fit is between what you sell and what they want. Do you have what they’re looking for?

Needs analysis, on the other hand, focuses on what they need, which may differ significantly from what they want. Do you tell them what they want to hear and sell them what they want to buy? Or do you dig deeper and present a compelling case for what they might need – and which, of course, you have – which might be unpalatable to them and cost you the deal.

That said, there are plenty of sales methodologies which teach advanced ways of moving a customer’s objectives to a new set of objectives, a place where the selling organisation has a strong advantage over the competition. The ethical question is whether the new problem, and the associated new solution, are genuinely bigger and more urgent than the one the customer started with.

Selling to requirements is an easier path, whereas selling to needs can lead to a better result.