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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should (improvise)

photo by Mike AndersonSome of the dumbest needs analysis questions in history:

  • “So, how long have you been in business?”
  • “How many locations do you have?”
  • And the classic, “Tell me about yourself.”

I think we can all agree that these questions would never survive the quality check of a well-written client needs analysis. But that’s exactly the point: These are the kinds of questions that slither out of one's mouth when their needs analysis is not well planned. The instant a prospect hears one of these types of questions, they can draw important conclusions about the salesperson who is asking:

  • “This salesperson didn’t even take the time to look at my website.” 
  • “These questions could have been answered by my office assistant!”
  • “Oh, good. Another seller who’s been taught to play to my ego.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. Improvisational skills are crucial in a good salesperson. But improv is a skill that should supplement smart planning when it comes to the client needs analysis. The smart money (pun intended) is on the salesperson who thinks about what kind of information they need to harvest during the needs analysis… in order to uncover meaningful challenges that their company, product or service can help solve

By all means, improvise when you must! But use those skills in addition to—rather than instead of—good planning. 

I recently spotted a broken-down trailer in a shopping center parking lot. The tires were so old, cracked and rotted that a flat tire was completely predictable. Absent a spare tire (again with the planning!), the owner had decided to tether a skateboard to the bottom of the wheel. Sure, it was a creative and improvisational approach. 

But it looked stupid, and it was obviously not going to work for the long haul.

Mike Anderson is VP Consumer Insights and Communication at The Center for Sales Strategy.

Topics: Needs Analysis Sales