Recently, some of my friends in the sales fraternity have asked me what is need-based selling, as selling is already selling, which is to meet the needs of the customer. Let me explain.
Many sales organizations have found a needs based selling method to be highly effective in increasing sales and improving customer satisfaction. The sales representatives who employ this approach will usually see improvement in their job performance and in the ease of closing accounts. They are able to distinguish themselves as sales professionals who are valuable consultants for their clients.
Here are the steps to successfully using a needs based selling approach on a sales call:
1. SET THE AGENDA. It is essential that any sales call begin with an agenda. Whether it is an existing client or a potential new one, the sales professional should state an agenda. A good standard opening is, "Mr. customer, what I'd like to do today is to first talk about you - ask a few questions about your business and find out what is happening with you, then tell you about me and what is happening at my company, and then we can determine whether we have a reason to work together. How does that sound?" The key here is to get agreement from the customer to continue the sales call. Once they agree, the next step is the needs analysis or questioning stage.
2. NEEDS ANALYSIS. Asking questions about the client's business should be a conversation where the client gets to talk more than the sales person. Good listening skills are very important in any sales call, but especially in this process where the customer is revealing information about themselves and their business. It is critical that the sales person NOT TRY TO SELL during the needs analysis. Resisting the urge to sell may be difficult for some sales people, but the order that was set at the beginning must be followed, and here we are letting the customer tell us about them. The goal is to uncover problems, concerns,or issues that the customer is having. Again, no selling should occur before the client's needs are uncovered. When needs or concerns are identified, the next step is to qualify or determine how important or critical the issue is to the customer. Ask the customer what it would mean to the business if the situation they identified could be corrected. If they respond with emotion or with great interest in how that could be accomplished, the sales person who can provide a solution will most likely get the sale. If the issue is not that important or if the customer is not seeing the situation as a pressing issue, then it does not qualify as a need and should not be pursued. Once the pressing need or needs are identified, a good question to ask the customer is, "can you and I agree to work together on finding a solution to this (or these) concerns?" The answer to this question will determine the level of buy in and interest from the customer.
3. Summarize. When the customer is finished telling about themselves, there should be one or more needs that have been uncovered. By recapping or summarizing what those needs were, the client will know that they were listened to and will give the sales person more credibility because they heard and understood what was said. Also, by gaining agreement from the client that these needs exist, the sales person can begin to plan a recommendation to answer the needs or solve the problem.
4. Transition. After the needs are revealed and agreed upon by the customer, the sales professional should set the table for the recommendation step. If this will involve a second sales call, set up the next appointment where specific plans to solve the concerns will be revealed and a recommendation made. An easy way to do this is to say, "if I had a way to help your business resolve this issue, would you be interested in hearing about it?" If the client says yes, you are on the way to a sale!
5. Recommendation. Based on the needs that were uncovered, the recommendation can be prepared and delivered. If the customer has agreed that the need is there, and if your product or service will solve the issue, then closing the sale will be much more of a probability.