Indentifying Needs - The Third Step in Brian Tracy's Sales Cycle

What do they really need?

Salesman talking to woman in automobile showroom
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Everyone has needs. Whether the needs are known or unknown, identified or hidden; every business has needs as well. The job of a sales professional or job seeker is to discover the needs of the business they are working with, and show them how they can solve their needs.

In the first two articles in this series, we discussed prospecting and trust and rapport. If you were successful in the first two steps, you then could advance to perhaps the most critical step in the sales or job seeking cycle.

Digging for Needs

If you were to walk into a doctor's office with a gaping wound, the doctor would not take very long to determine what your issue was and would take quick action. However, like what a doctor often goes through, obvious wounds or needs are usually indicators of other issues. For example, let's say that you sell office cleaning services and your prospect's office is visibly dirty, despite your prospect's contention that they currently outsource their office cleaning to one of your competitors. The obvious need is that your prospect is not getting the quality of service that they expect and deserve. However, if you stop there, and do not pursue why their office gets so dirty in the first place, you may leave money on the table and not distinguish yourself from the inevitable stream of competitors offering your prospect better service.

By asking additional questions, you discover that your prospect has several "green initiatives" in place, one of which demands that their cleaning service use only environmentally friendly products.

You also discover that the line of "green" products your competitor uses are consistently rated poorly by independent reviewers when compared to your line of "green" products.

Armed with this additional information, you are well positioned to submit a proposal and earn a client.

The Needs the Client Doesn't Know About

Digging for additional needs is important and takes some skill as many of your prospects or potential employers are only aware of their immediate needs.

Your job is to discover the causes for their known needs and get them to agree that they have more needs than just their obvious one. Learning to replace the term "causes" with "unrealized needs," you'll begin to put yourself in the correct state of mind. When you then begin matching up your products/services or skills with their needs, both known and unrealized, you immediately begin to be more of a solution provider than sales professional or job seeker.

Some Needs are Hidden for a Reason

As with every step in the sales or interviewing cycle, you will get better the more you practice. When uncovering needs, tact must be used when you uncover needs that make your prospect or hiring manager look incompetent or make the business look foolish. The term "institutional knowledge" means that a business does something in a certain way because that is the way they've always done it. If you discover that the underlying cause (meaning unrealized need) is a process that simply is outdated, critically flawed or simply makes no sense, be careful how you expose the process. Ridiculing the process may mean that you are ridiculing the person who designed the process. And that person may be sitting across the table from you.

Digging for unrealized needs takes some skill and experience as does learning when to stop digging. If you discover a need that is created by a flawed process that exposing would jeopardize any rapport that you have built, stop pursuing that "avenue of needs" and try to discover another unrealized need. The good news is that most businesses have numerous unrealized needs that you or your product/services may be able to resolve.

Don't Forget Your Needs

A common and costly mistake that many job seekers and sales professionals make is forgetting that they have needs that also need to be satisfied. These can include minimum profit margins, specific implementation requirements and time-frame expectations. While matching your products/services or skills to your prospects, do not lose sight of what you need to make a part of any business relationship.

This is especially true when it comes to job hunting. Faced with the prospect of being offered a position, job seekers often get caught up in emotions and, while they show how they can solve a business's needs, they neglect to make sure that the business can satisfy their needs. Not making sure of a "win-win" relationship is the most common reasons for job dissatisfaction and employee turnover. Ask questions to discover their needs and ask questions about how they will fill your professional needs.