Uncovering customer needs is critical. Essentially, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs implies that when one need is satisfied, another one is likely to pop up. Once I’ve got this satisfied, then I’m going to be working on this, and then I’m going to be working on this. It’s human nature. So if you recognize the fact that the needs are constantly going to be changing and you adopt a policy of constant requalification with your people — staying in touch, building that relationship, and finding out what they need next — you’re going to be in much better shape.

David: Hi, and welcome to the podcast. In today’s episode, cohost Jay McFarland and I will be discussing the idea of uncovering customer needs. Welcome back, Jay.

Jay: Thank you so much, David. It’s such a pleasure to be here. I think that this is another great topic because a lot of times we just decide on our own what we think the customer needs, right? So we formulate that in our mind and we try and force that square into a round hole. You’re probably creating a lot more problems that you really don’t need to have.

Uncovering customer needs in sales

David: Exactly. When salespeople go in with the idea of “what I want to sell this person,” instead of “what does this person need,” they’re behind the eight ball right from the beginning. And I think there are some schools of thought in terms of sales, particularly if it’s a company that has one primary product that they’re looking to push, that, okay, you just have to go in and sell this.

It reminds me of, you know, selling things door to door. If you’re a Fuller brush salesman and you’re looking to sell this one particular brush, well that’s my thing. That’s what I’ve got to sell.

If you are sort of a one trick pony like that, if you’ve got one thing you want to sell, then this can still actually apply to you.

Because when we think in terms of customer needs, I think a lot of people get stuck on the idea that uncovering customer needs means discovering which products they want to buy from us. And uncovering customer needs goes way beyond that. It’s more about what do they really need?

Where are they struggling? What do they need help with? What are they trying to accomplish? Because even if you’re selling a Fuller brush, if you go in with the idea of “do you want to buy this brush,” the answer is no.

But if you find out that what they’re struggling with is that they’re very busy and they don’t have enough time, and their life is chaotic.

Then you may be able to let them know that this Fuller brush is going to allow them to clean things faster and be more economical in their time and accomplish some of the things that they’re telling you are actually important to them.

So while that’s a rather extreme example, it really goes to the whole idea of what I believe uncovering customer needs is all about.

Uncovering customer needs with questions

Jay: Yeah. And I think there’s only one way to get to customer needs and that’s to ask questions, right?

David: Right.

Jay: If you start out with your sales pitch, you’re not going to know what their needs are. And I also like the idea of letting them talk and that helps you build the relationship and discover their needs. Is there another way besides asking question?

David: I don’t think there really is. I mean, you’ve got to be able to get the answers from them. The only way that you can actually uncover a need is for them to vocalize it. I mean, unless it’s something that you’ve observed, Hey, it looks like you could really use this.

Right? Or if somebody refers you to that person and says my friend could really use what you’re offering here. But even then, it’s somebody else’s opinion. So that’s just the beginning of a point of conversation. Hey, your friend suggested I give you a call. I understand that you’re looking to accomplish this and perhaps this item can help. Wanted to see what your thoughts are about that. And then yeah, as you indicated, let them talk.

Jay: Yeah, and letting them talk, I think you kind of help them understand why they need your product. And like you said, it may not be something they’re thinking about. They may not know that they need your product.

But like you said, maybe there’s something else in their life where they don’t have a lot of time. This product will save you time and so you can actually deal with other issues in your life better.

So, figuring out how you can best serve them and then helping them come to that conclusion. I love to go down that path in the sales process.

David: Yeah, I agree, and I think this really kind of ties to the idea of what a lot of people think of in terms of features and benefits. If I’ve got a phone what’s the feature of my phone? Feature of my phone is that it’s this big and it’s got a big screen and lots of colors and good audio quality. But what are the benefits?

Well, you know, the benefits are that I can be in touch with the people that I care about. I can be responsive to my customer’s needs. I can have the latest and greatest in terms of technology to allow me to connect better with everyone.

So, there’s features and benefits, and I think that’s something that a lot of people talk about. But if we really want to get serious about it, it even goes beyond that. And it starts to get into sort of the emotions and the experiences that people want to have.

Like we were talking about before, if somebody wants to clean their house, what do they want it to feel like? What do they want it to smell like? What’s the experience that they want people to have when they come in? And I mean, we’re not selling cleaning products here. Again, I’m using this more of an extreme example than anything else.

But recognizing that there are a lot of different stages to this. And if you focus just on uncovering product needs, you are very likely going to be selling a much smaller percentage of the audience than would potentially buy from you.

Jay: Yeah. And I think oftentimes, depending on what your product is, what you’re really selling is yourself. And once they trust you and believe in you, then they’re going to take your word for it, that that product will do what it says. So you got to realize that it is about relationships so often.

David: Yeah. And it’s a lot easier to sell someone on you, if you are interested in them . Right? I think there was a, a brief synopsis I heard one time of How to Win Friends and Influence People. And it basically said if you talk to other people about themselves, they’ll think you’re the most interesting person in the world.

Jay: Yeah, I can remember going into a situation, I had a partner at the time, and every time we went into that situation, all he did was talk about himself and then talk about his product. And people would just sit there and they would start to tune out and he never figured it out.

I’d come in and when I led, I’d just ask questions and ask questions and you look for those nonverbal cues as well. You know, are they paying attention to me? If they’re not, I need to get their focus again. Are they nodding their head in agreement? Okay, that means they’re coming along.

If they look confused, of course, that’s very hard over the phone, but if you’re doing it in person, I find those nonverbal cues to be essential.

David: Yeah, and a lot of people just don’t always do that. I mean, I think another important aspect of this whole topic is that customers’ needs are always changing.

So when we talk about the idea of uncovering a customer’s needs, just because you did it today doesn’t mean that those needs are the same tomorrow. They’re not going to be.

And if you are in the kind of business where you’re looking for long term business and long term relationships, and you want to be able to continue to sell to someone, then you really need to sort of get things in gear and recognize that it’s a constant process of requalifying and finding out where are they now?

What did they need today that they didn’t need before? How did what they purchased from me before now create new situations that they need to tackle that could require something that I could provide to them later.

I mean, a great example in the promotional products industry where we do a lot of business, is that some people use a promotional item to get people to come into a retail store, Come on in and you’ll get this free item.

So let’s say it’s a car dealership. Come on into this car dealership and you’ll get this free key fob, right? And on the key fob, there’s a key, and you can try it out in the trunk of this car that’s in the showroom. And if it opens up the trunk, then you win some sort of prize.

Right? So that would be designed to get somebody to actually come in. So once they come in, what’s the next thing you want them to do? The next thing you want them to do is probably to take a test drive. Because the goal is to get them to buy a car. They’re not going to come in for the free thing and then just immediately buy a car.

So you say, Okay, what we’re doing today is for everybody who takes a test drive, you get a free dashboard cell phone holder for your car. And so then that would increase the number of people who’d be taking a test drive.

And then it’s great, okay, so they’re in the test drive, they’re doing the test drive, they’re enjoying the feel of the car, the smell of the car, everything like that. And then the person says to them, you know, for people who buy a car today, we’re including a pair of Italian leather racing gloves that match the interior of the vehicle, right? Custom imprinted, of course, when that’s what you’re selling.

So you can use your products to lead your prospects down a path that accomplishes their goals and accomplishes your goals, sells more stuff, and sets you up for future business. And when you do this type of thing, people look at you and say, Wow, you’re really thinking about not just what I said, I needed , but what I actually need. You’ve taken the time to think things through for other people, which is really essential and entirely endearing. People love that for long-term results.

Jay: Yeah, I totally agree with you. You’re building that relationship of trust and it should be easier the next time you come to them with a product, right? You’ve already torn down some walls. You know, as long as they were satisfied with your last product.

We have a guy, he’s a car salesman, and I went to him for a referral. He didn’t treat me like a normal car salesman. He got to know me. He gave me a great deal. I never, ever thought, David, that I would say I have a car salesman guy.

Like people say, I have a mechanic or a doctor. In my family, we’ve purchased seven cars from this man over the last 10 years. And it’s because of that first interaction and that building of trust.

I get emails from them, and I’ve reacted on some of those. But if that first experience wasn’t there, he would’ve lost out on six other vehicles, right? So to me…

David: Yes.

Jay: If he would’ve tried to cram me into that same hole as every other salesperson, I would’ve been out of there. I wouldn’t have bought the first car, and I wouldn’t have bought six more from him either.

David: Well, I’ve got exactly the opposite experience that I can share with you very quickly, and that is that I purchased a car from somebody. It’s got to be 14, 15 years ago. And when I was ready for a new one, I went back into that same dealership and I saw that same guy, his name was Kerry. And as I was about to walk over to say, Hey Kerry how you doing? He came up to me and said, Hi, may I help you?

Jay: Oh. .

David: Okay. He had no idea who I was. He had no idea that he had sold me a car. And at that point I looked at him and I said, “no thanks, just looking.” right?

Jay: Yeah.

David: So instead of “Hi Kerry,” you know, we could have picked up the conversation where we left off years before, it didn’t happen. And I was just like, I looked around and I walked out and I’m like, Nah, I think I’ll go somewhere else.

And I mean, it wasn’t like he was rude, it wasn’t like he was obnoxious, but it’s like, I’ve spent some money with you, you know? And…

Jay: And you were going back to him for that reason. And when that reason disappeared, You did too.

David: I did too. Just like the wind. Poof, .

Jay: Yeah. So again, knowing your customer needs and if you can fill them, that’s so important. Oftentimes, we just ask questions upfront to try and get to know them. But I think asking questions the whole way. So like if you’ve presented your product as a solution, asking them if that really matches their needs before just going into your close process.

I think asking questions all along the way, helping them come to the belief that your product is helpful instead of just telling them is a great way to go.

David: Yeah, and when you think about needs, you know, there’s a whole thing about the hierarchy of needs and all that sort of thing, but basically what that says is that when one need is satisfied, another one’s going to pop up.

Once I’ve got this satisfied, then I’m going to be working on this, and then I’m going to be working on this. It’s human nature. So if you recognize the fact that the needs are constantly going to be changing and you adopt a policy of constant requalification with your people, staying in touch, building that relationship, and finding out what they need next, you’re going to be in much better shape.

Jay: Yeah, I totally agree with you. And it’s funny that you mention the hierarchy of needs. I find that when you’re not building a relationship, when you’re just going into your close or whatever, what happens is you drive price to the top. That’s all people will focus on is the price.

But the more they get to know you, the more you build trust, the more your products do fill their needs, that price, or the need for money, or for the sale starts to go down. And they start to not even worry about that anymore because you’ve got that relationship.

So I think you have the ability to determine if they’re going to only focus on price or if they will trust you in other ways.

David: Absolutely.

Jay: All right. How can people find out more?

David: Well, you can go to TopSecrets.com/call. That’s TopSecrets.com/call. Schedule a call with myself or my team. We’ll figure out where you are now, where you’re looking to be, what you’re looking to accomplish, and if we can help, we’ll let you know that. And if we can’t, we’ll tell you that too.

Jay: I love it, David, And often just talking to somebody else about it is just a great way to, you know, sometimes you’ll come to your own conclusions just hearing yourself talk, so I love that you provide that service.

David: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. I mean, I love talking to the people that we talk to. And it’s a similar kind of situation. Not everybody is qualified to be a client of ours, and that’s perfectly fine. We like having the conversations and if we can help, we like doing that. And if we can’t help, we’ll normally just redirect them to someone that we think can.

Jay: Fantastic. Thanks, David.

David: Thank you, Jay.

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