Is it demand, as some would suggest? No, sales are still happening. Is it available capital, as many seem to be saying? No, capital is still available for the right project that provides a return on investment. What could it be?

Well, what causes a college-aged kid with $25 to his/her name to somehow scrap, beg, borrow, sell and plead to find $200 to buy the latest iPhone? What causes the middle-aged man with limited finances to purchase that sports car? The answer: needs!

Sales are down because we are no longer meeting our clients’ needs. Is it because we can’t? No—it’s because their needs have changed and perhaps we have not taken the time to understand what their needs are now and how we can help them meet those needs. When times were good, we might have been showing our clients how we could help them make money by spending money on our products or services. But clients now have more of a need to understand how you can help them save money. Although you may still be serving the same purpose, you are in fact fulfilling a different need from the client’s perspective. The hardest thing to do in sales is to uncover the right need for two reasons: 1) Your clients may not actually know their own needs, and 2)Your clients most likely do not want to tell you their needs for fear of being sold.

People buy things for one of two motivating needs: either logical needs or emotional needs. There are several schools of thought on these different categories. For example, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs could oftentimes be applied to any sales situation. Many would say that emotion is a significant driver, with the avoidance of pain being the main motivator. Regardless of the school of thought, the most important element to remember is that there is one critical motivating need that will help you close the sale. You must find that need and “develop” it until you achieve success.

It is easy to assume or guess at a potential client’s needs. This is the biggest mistake one can make. The minute you tell someone what their needs are is the last opportunity you’ll have to gain that business. Instead, let your prospect tell you their needs through strategic questioning. You can then further develop those needs by formulating questions specific to those circumstances. Remember, if the need comes out of their mouth, it must be true!

Here is an exercise that you can perform in order to develop effective strategic questions. By developing a list of questions, you may find that you are able to uncover your prospects’ needs more efficiently and effectively, leading to more sales!

  1. Start with the end in mind. Formulate a list of the answers you want to hear from your prospects. If I sell security solutions, I may want to hear, “We have a problem with our security and we know that we need help fixing it.”
  2. Identify your solutions. Formulate a list of all of the various solutions that your product or service may provide customers.
  3. Identify potential needs. Formulate or categorize the potential needs for which your product or service provides a solution. You will probably have seen enough clients or talked to enough prospects to be able to classify several different needs.
  4. Identify your prospect’s problems. Formulate a list of prospects’/clients’ problems. Remember that problems are different from needs. My organization’s problem might be a lack of name-brand recognition, which stems from my emotional need for acknowledgement and pride, and my logical need of growth and profitability.
  5. Build a list of strategic questions. From the above information that you have written down, formulate a database of strategic questions that you can ask all of your prospects. The questions you ask will vary from situation to situation, but they will all have the same end in mind—finding and developing needs. iBi