Until recently, when sellers asked for my help it typically involved creating a strong valid business reason to help secure a first meeting with a prospect. But over the past few weeks, I’ve had multiple people seek help with preparing for a meeting they’ve already secured (which is just as important). Yes, it seems that more and more people are realizing the cold, hard truth – preparation no longer ends after you get the appointment (did it ever?). That first needs analysis meeting is a critical part of the selling process so “winging it” should never be your strategy.
Most sellers understand that the goal of the needs analysis meeting is to uncover an urgent need that they can help solve; and then leave with an assignment. In order to accomplish this, you must ask great questions. By “great” questions, I mean ones that: get the wheels turning inside their head, make them glad you asked, allow them to talk about what’s hot from their point of view, and make you seem valuable. Remember, every question you ask will either enhance or detract from your credibility.
While the hourglass needs analysis process remains the same for each meeting, the questions should certainly be customized for each client. Sitting down and actually developing great needs analysis questions is where many struggle (or worse, skip the step all together).
Below is a list of places to look when developing your needs analysis questions. A helpful tip: as you’re doing your research, simply focus on topics of discussion, rather than trying to form a question on the spot. Gather topics first, then create your questions.Their Website
While you may be there to learn more about their business, you want to make sure you demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and aren’t asking questions that you could have figured out the answer to from their website. Cover any basics prior to the meeting (years in business, number of locations, etc.).
Next, look at everything from company goals and initiatives to charity ties and current promotions. Get a feel for what they’re trying to accomplish. From there, you could ask about challenges, obstacles, successes of goals and promotions.
- Educate yourself on what’s going on in their industry. Note any topics worth discussing that could be impacting them. I like to search something along the lines of “cosmetic surgery industry trends” or “cosmetic surgery industry news” in preparation for a meeting with a cosmetic surgeon. From there I might find an industry website that includes a study revealing that more men have been getting plastic surgery. This topic could prompt several different questions.
- Since every business is unique, the needs analysis can be a great time to learn how their business is run, how they turn a profit, etc. But it would benefit you to have a basic understanding of how the average company in their industry works. Google can be a great place to find answers. For example, “how does an automotive dealership work”? Or, “business model for an orthodontist.”
- Check to see if your prospect has been in the news recently. I like simply searching in the “Google News” filter to see what I find. Note anything that might be worth discussing.
- Use social media to learn about both the company and person you’re meeting with (great for the rapport phase). See if you can determine what they’re trying to accomplish through each profile. How are people interacting with their company page?
- If you know some of their main competitors, find out what they’re doing and ask about how it’s affecting your prospect; and/or how they’re combatting it.
Once you’ve gathered your topics, the questions should come rather easy. Remember, be flexible and listen to their answers. Through simple preparation, you will undoubtedly build credibility, set yourself apart from the rest of the sellers trying to compete for your prospect’s attention, and leave with an assignment.
If you are having difficultly with formulating questions to ask during your appointments, download The Art of Asking Questions.