Why You Must Understand Your Customer’s Circumstances

Conducting an effective needs assessment involves a lot more than just understanding what a prospect or customer wants and needs.

If you really want to be effective in selling, you must ask deeper and deeper questions to get underneath the wants and needs, all the way down to the circumstances the customer or prospect is experiencing. Only then can you begin to develop an understanding of his or her motivation for wanting to take action, and the forces that are really driving the decision.

Let’s follow an example of how this might play out to see the type of questioning involved. Note that each subsequent question is based on the previous answer, and it is best done in a low-key, conversational style.

Sales professional (SP): “Thanks for outlining what you are looking for when replacing your existing copier-printing center. You mentioned that your current system just doesn’t allow fast enough throughput, so I was hoping that you could give me an example of the last time the slowness of your current system caused an issue.”

Controller, who is the customer (C): “Our board meetings follow the first business day after the close of the month. We were getting ready for a board meeting and of course, had several last minute requests for reports, presentation changes, and other documents for the meeting. Our admin and I came in an hour early to get the things printed and assembled, but ran out of time. Things got backed up in queue and we didn’t have the materials ready for the meeting.”

SP: “How did the board members and management team react to that?”

C: “Several board members asked why we materials were not ready in advance. With such a short window we need every minute of prep time we can get. My boss is the CFO, and she was quite unhappy about having to explain why we had to start late.”

SP: “And you felt the materials could have been done in time if the equipment were of higher capacity and speed?”

C: “Isn’t the equipment you are suggesting for us able to fix our speed problem?”

SP: “Absolutely – it will solve the problem for you… So tell me, if you were able to get all of the printing and assembling done in the hour, what would be the result?”

C: “For one thing, the board would be happier and likely more positive towards our managers. And I’d be less stressed.”

SP: “And if the board is happier and more positive, does that increase the likelihood of being more supportive of the proposals the management team is making?”

C: “Probably it would…we need the board to support the proposals we typically make.”

In this example, the sales professional is able to link the specific circumstances to greater consequences and benefits in order to increase the value realized by making the investment in new equipment. The purchase decision now has the customer’s emotional commitment to go along with cold, hard facts about the productivity increases the new equipment will provide.

Bottom line: you’ll increase your sales if you spend the time to develop the circumstances driving the customer’s wants and needs.

Boyer Management Group works with universities, employers and job seekers alike to help them become more successful. For employers, we offer world-class assessments, talent acquisition and B2B sales training programs. For employers and individuals, we offer the world’s finest assessments to measure an individual’s knowledge and awareness of current and emerging best practices in conducting an effective career search, selling, delivering customer service, leadership, and behavioral fit. To find out more, please visit us at info@boyermanagement.com, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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