Archives for posts with tag: Needs

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.

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Almost everything we do is guided by self-interest. It’s human nature. Heck, it’s in every sentient being’s nature, otherwise it would cease to exist.

This rule seems to apply to us humans at all levels of the famous Maslow hierarchy of needs, from the basic acts like food and warmth to the more sophisticated ones like self-actualisation, which I think means achieving our potential.

When we do something with family and friend interests at heart, there’s probably a degree of self-interest in there too. Even when we do something for people we don’t know, in an act of charitable kindness, self-interest figures in the mix, aside from the simple satisfaction we get from our generosity of spirit, time or money.

It always comes down to that, the underlying reason for why we do stuff.

The question for me is this. Can we rise above it? Can we do something that’s genuinely not self-serving? Not all the time, but once in a while, perhaps occasionally?

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of understanding your customer’s requirements.

I only needed one lesson to remember this. In my final year of college I paid a few quid to go on a 2-day ‘introduction to business’ course. It was a very academic college, with almost no course devoted to business, so this was something entirely new for many of us. It was very interactive, by which I mean we were divided into groups and completed tasks like launching a new product, negotiating the construction of a building with a local council, or selling something to customers. I remember it from thirty years ago because we learned by doing. If I’d been lectured at, the course would have melted into the hundreds of other days of ‘training’ that I’ve received.

The course was designed to simulate working in real business, not learning the theoretical stuff you do as a undergraduate or graduate. As such, the exercises had to be completed within a certain time. As you’re probably sick of hearing from me, time is the one thing we never have enough of in business, so the exercises had a genuine applicability.

In one exercise our job was to ‘manufacture’ products and sell them to ‘customers’. The product was the paper that fits into 4-hole punch binders, European A4 size. Our team was running behind on time and after a poor sales experience with our first group of customers, we were in a mad dash to get in front of our next group of customers.

This time we were ready, we had our paper, freshly punched, and proudly demonstrated this to our latest group of customers. They became really agitated and threatened to leave the meeting. We didn’t know what the problem was, so we asked them. So they took out their binders. The binders were A5, 2-hole punch.

We hadn’t understood the rules of the game, and we hadn’t listened to our customers to understand their requirements, which were different to the other groups of customers in the game.

Didn’t make that mistake again…