I recently had the chance to observe a seller in the process of a needs analysis meeting with a client. She had clearly prepared exhaustively for the event… with page after page of well thought-out questions.
And that was the problem: She was so focused on her questions that she totally missed the answers.
In one case, a response from the client referred to a massive shipment of inventory that had been imposed on him by one of his vendors; a contractual obligation allowed them to make a tremendous overstock his problem… and he had too little warehouse space available for it.
After hearing his concern—and having totally overlooked the worried look on his face as he spoke about it—the sales rep moved diligently to the next question on her note pad.
Preparing for a needs analysis meeting—or any meeting—is critical. But don’t be so focused on your performance that you fail to absorb the responses your questions might spark.
- As you’re planning for your needs analysis, don’t just focus on making your questions sound intelligent. Consider the information you’re hoping those questions will help you harvest.
- General Norman Schwarzkopf once said, “Few battle plans survive first contact with the enemy.” Likewise, be prepared to adjust your plan. Listen proactively to the prospect's responses… so you can ask solid follow-up questions.
- If you are a client, use our resources to help you plan for your meeting, like the Needs/Notes formula for note-taking. That will help you capture important key challenges that separate from the general information you’re getting… and focus on those issues that might lead to a nice budget.
Preparing for your needs analysis is critical. But use your prepared questions as a guideline, careful not to let them become a noose!
Download our Hourglass Needs Analysis, so you can transition smoothly from the variety of needs you might hear... to the important assignment you want!
Mike Anderson is VP of Consumer Insights and Communication at The Center for Sales Strategy