Defining Needs Based Selling
Needs based selling, sometimes called consultative selling, is the act of understanding the customer’s goals and challenges and then positioning the product or service in a way that addresses those specific needs. Therefore, needs based selling means asking questions that surface the customer’s objectives.
This approach is in contrast to transactional selling in which the sales professional merely connects the customer to the solution. In such an approach sales professionals often initiate the conversation by listing features and benefits without first understanding which of those capabilities will resonate with the customer.
In recent years needs based selling has emerged as the most effective approach to winning the sale because it is suited to the increasingly nuanced set of needs customers have today. Similarly, as solutions become more complex a needs based approach is appropriate because it informs the sales professional about which aspects of the solution are most relevant in the sales conversation.
Embracing a needs based sales methodology means committing to a core set of principles.
Here we explain those three principles.
Needs Based Selling is Customer-Centric
Adopting a customer-centric approach means keeping the focus on the customer. For many, it is a natural instinct to advocate for the solution early and often. This tendency, however, is misguided. Placing the focus on the product or service means losing opportunities to learn more about the customer, their needs and the concerns of the other stakeholders. It is only through a consistent exploration of these needs that a sales professional will discover the path to the sale.
Customer-centricity is more than a strategy, it is a mindset. The most effective sales professionals are genuinely curious about their customers. They want to understand the customer’s underlying needs, their long-term aspirations, and their perceived risks.
An exploration of customer needs is also an exercise in building trust. Customer-centric questions underscore the sales professional's authenticity by demonstrating that the sales professional has the customer’s interests at the fore of their thinking. Simply, questions define the sales professional's presence as one of shared commitment to the customer’s challenges.
Needs Based Selling is Insightful
Insights are a primary tool of the needs based sale because sales professionals earn the right to ask deeper questions by delivering meaningful insights to customers. Moreover, insights demonstrate a grasp of the customer’s core needs and the ability of the sales professional to think critically about the challenges at hand.
Additionally, the ability to deliver insights gives the sales professional the chance to rise to the level of a trusted advisor. Unlike an ordinary solution provider, a trusted advisor is an expert the buyer seeks during a period of change. A trusted advisor does more than transact business — they help diagnose the problem and are viewed as a source of guidance. Inhabiting this role requires the sales professional to assert a point of view because they must navigate and, ultimately, reshape the customer’s thinking. They must widen the customer’s purview, revealing the full scope of risks and opportunities. Doing so means generating insights that are relevant.
Offering relevant insights is challenging because it requires the sales professional to develop a wide foundation of knowledge about the customer. Therefore, it is important to research the customer’s business before any conversation. This approach allows the sales professional to use the valuable time with the customer as an opportunity to ask questions that cannot be satisfied with research. The answers enable the sales professional to form insights.
Needs Based Selling is Agile
Needs based sales professionals adopt an agile approach that can track and adapt to changes in the buying journey. These sales professionals leverage the right skills at the right time while seamlessly shifting between capabilities. What makes this flexible approach so effective is that it resonates with the customer’s cadence. Businesses today strategize at an accelerating pace.
Agility allows for a long-term approach in which the buyer/seller relationship is strong enough to offer opportunities to grow into the buyer’s additional, unserved needs or, “white space.” A sales professional might discover that their solution fits the needs of another division. Or, they might discover that other solutions can address challenges that surface late in the sales cycle. The customer’s white space is a powerful way to capitalize on front-loaded selling efforts. The key to expanding the sale in this way is to spend time with the customer and track their changing needs.
Agility in selling is what keeps the solution relevant. As more decision-makers exert influence on the purchasing decision the buying journey follows a more twisting path. As a result, agility is an increasingly crucial skill for success in today’s environment.
Needs based selling, in its simplest form, is the act of serving a customer’s needs. This approach, however, transcends customer service, because the sales professional is delivering a customized solution that connects to the customer’s individualized needs.
Committing to a needs based sales approach means being customer-centric in both words and actions while delivering meaningful insights and remaining agile throughout the buying journey.
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