When creating a relationship with a potential client you will want to perform a needs assessment with them prior to pitching them on a customized solution.
A needs assessment is an initial meeting where you identify exactly what the customer hopes to achieve with your product or service, and to highlight what your product or service can do for them.
It also allows you to build rapport, to feel out the client’s style, and to find any obstacles that may prevent your product or service from being effective.
Go in and ask great probing questions.
While doing so, pretend to be the business owner, step into their shoes, and determine whether you would do business with yourself.
Probing questions should be designed to allow the prospect to give elaborate answers while they reveal their needs.
Pay careful attention because you will really understand the priorities of the business owner and the direction of the company in a really short time.
Ultimately, you want to find a few solid gaps you can fill with the benefits of your product.
You will want to drop tidbits of benefits that your product possesses as they answer questions to set the tone that you do really have the solution that is perfect for them.
At the end of the needs assessment, there are 3 main pieces of information you should have to determine the right solution for your client.
Understand Their Market
Who buys your prospect’s products?
Who is their typical client?
Which segments of the population will consume their product or service?
Find out as much information as possible: age range, gender, socio-politco-ethno-blah-blah cultural character – everything.
Your prospect’s market will determine what costs the business is willing to absorb in purchasing your product or service.
In fact, sometimes things that may be considered discriminatory when positioned one way can be seen as catering to a segment of the population in others.
I know my parents are more likely to buy a Bollywood film than someone outside of our culture.
Cost can really impact who will benefit from your client’s product or service.
Generally, those with less money are not going to buy high end luxury items.
And those who buy luxury items will put importance on quality.
Some of your client’s may want the best bang for their buck.
If your product is for internal use, find out about how their employee group functions, about their cultural climate.
If you are selling a product that will be used to directly impact their own clients, such as advertising, food services, or promotional material, find out as much as you can about their audience.
By finding out who their customer is, you will know how they reach their audience, and how you can help in aiding them to gain as much exposure, quality connections, and credibility as possible.
Do they want to reduce costs or increase revenue?
How large is their workforce?
Do they anticipate any big changes over the next year?
If you can anticipate the company’s future, you can grow with them, and really be able to build a long standing relationship.
If they are an experienced company, find out any issues they had in the past with previous providers of your product or service.
Find out why your competitor didn’t fare as well so you can ensure you don’t make the same mistake.
Also, if you ask lots of questions about their future, you let the prospect know that you are accountable, reliable, and plan to be in support of them for the long haul – which will help to continue to build rapport and trust.
If you are selling printers, you want to find out how much paper they go through, how much ink they go through, the power it takes to charge the machine, anything you can to uncover inefficiencies that can be helped by your product.
Get really detailed because you will uncover stuff you never even considered important for your potential client that is actually a dealmaker or breaker for them.
Budget can be a sticky issue for a lot of sales reps.
Some of you may disagree that this is an important takeaway at all.
On one hand we don’t want to seem as though we are putting a cost out there since it may give the impression that we are only going to do as much work as the contract is worth.
On the otherhand, it is difficult to right size the client without knowing what they are willing to spend.
If you have asked great probing questions to understand their market and their goals, it will be a lot easier to have an idea of their budget.
The best way to determine their budget, depending on your product or service, is to find out the average transaction they make, or the budget they currently have to fulfil the particular aspect of their business you want to help.
The only way to find out is to ask.
Business owners expect it and it will actually increase your legitimacy.
In sales, talking dollars makes sense.
Back to Basics
Nothing I have said here is revolutionary.
So often though we forget the basics when it comes to servicing our prospects’ needs.
Understanding their needs will help you to realize what voids they currently have and how your product or service can fill that gap.
If there is absolutely no chance your product or service will fit your client’s needs, even if you have looked at every variable, be honest that it won’t and move on.
No one likes a money grabber.
It will go a long way in growing your credibility and when there is a fit, the prospect will refer you, or they will know where to come first when their business has evolved.
Please add your comment below with other takeaways that you believe are important when performing a needs assessment.