What is Needs Analysis?
As a salesperson, we always take pride in giving solutions. However, many times, we have looked at giving solutions from one way – our way. This is because we are under immense pressure to sell. In those situations, we also make a lot of assumptions.
We catch a few words of what the buyer says or describes in their RFPs. We assume that this is what the buyer wants to accomplish and begin giving solutions. This may not be the right way.
We have to begin looking at the problems from their point of view.
We have to give full attention and try to understand their point of view. It is tempting to interrupt them and quickly and attempt to give solutions. This will irritate the customers because they are frustrated that they are not being listened to.
What the buyer says that they want either verbally or through an RFP (Request for Proposal) are the tasks they would like to accomplish to fulfill some goals. However, merely responding to the RFP may not get us the deal.
As a consultative sales person, you have to firmly believe in adding value to your customers. This means that you have to think more than the discussions or the RFP that has been sent your way. It is good to believe that the RFP may be a sub-optimal document. This is because
- Buyers may not know what they want and hence may give an RFP that has a list of tasks to do. They firmly believe that this is what they would want. You, at multiple points in time, will know what this may not be the best option for them. This can be based on the knowledge base you might have built for someone else within the industry or for someone who has a similar use-case.
- Buyers may also have a problem of not thinking outside their comfort zone. They might have assumed a suboptimal goal or would have assumed that the best possible benefits may not even be possible to accomplish. This could be because of the limited thought process that they have.
- Even though the buyers may know what they want, what they would suggest as a process or methodology may not be the optimal one. This is based on what the multiple decision makers believe is the best way to solve their problems.
- Even though the buyers may know what they want, they might not be aware of the other benefits they will get if implemented in another method. They might get myopic and think only about what they will get from the proposed solution and might not think outside of that benefit.
Hence, treat the RFP may as a logical representation of the buyer’s requirements but we would need to go beyond the stated needs and find out the actual needs which may be hidden inside the buyer’s mind.
How do we do go beyond the stated needs!!! – Ask good questions!!!
You will have to ask a lot of questions to unearth the problem and to bring it to the surface.
List of a few questions to do Needs Analysis:
- What are they doing now?
- How are they solving the same problem you are trying to solve right now?
- What sort of software, hardware, process, automation are they using right now?
- How many people have they deployed in this process?
- How long does it take for you to do the job?
- What made them think they need a change?
- Describe a typical process and day at work
- Describe the time when things did not go as per your plan or something unexpected happened
- What was the impact that this issue caused to them?
- What options do they have with them?
- Based on that situation, what did you want to do?
- Have you attempted to solve this in the past? If so, how and what has been the results?
- What options do you have in solving those problems?
- What would they like to accomplish?
- What objectives would you like to accomplish?
- What are must haves and nice to have as goals?
- What sort of impact, this solution cause to the organization?
- Is it a high/ medium/ low impact problem and what is the impact this solution will create?
- Who else will be impacted by this solution?
- Is there a timeline within which you would like to accomplish your goals?
Asking a lot of right questions that talks about the trigger for problem identification, the impact of the problem, the options of solutions and the timelines would help you understand the needs better Click To Tweet
You can formulate a custom set of questions that will help you understand the needs.
In the initial stages, it might be a bit difficult to think of asking so many questions. However, you can do a rapid needs analysis by asking a few questions. The best way to get responses to these questions would be to stagger those right from the first meeting.
The buyer will not feel inundated with so many questions and you will also not feel a bit hesitant in asking multiple questions.
You will now know what they should focus on as an end goal. You can then suggest a method or a process that can help the buyer jump a couple of notches and can reach better goals.
The next skill you will need to have is … Listening!!!
As your buyer is talking, you should not think that you have understood what they are saying. You should not get tempted and interrupt the buyer. You should listen completely and ask leading questions to get to the bottom of the thought process and understand what your buyer is thinking.
Benefits of doing Needs Analysis the right way
This will help you differentiate yourself with your buyers. You can give multiple options to the buyers while they are in the ideation stage. This will give the buyers a positive impression that you and your organization understand the needs and have done the job earlier.
The buyers will get a feeling that they are in safe hands. This will get more confident to the buyers to take you to the next level of evaluation.
Presence of Multiple Buyers
You also should know that there will be multiple buyers that will be a part of the decision making in a B2B purchase. Each one of these buyers will play specific roles and each one of them will look at the same business problem from their independent point of view.
So, you will have to look at connecting with multiple buyers and find out what their perspectives on the problem, solutions and the benefits are.
Also, read the other article I had written on Presentation to Multiple Buyers
Never assume the status quo. Always think that your buyer has better options and better goals to accomplish that they have not thought about. This thought will make you ask the right sets of questions to make the buyers talk about what they would really like to achieve. You can now be contextual in all your suggestions.
This will make you be heard over and above the noise of the other large or existing strong vendors competing for the same job. Buyers love knowledgeable vendors who can question their thought process and can give them the right solutions.
Long story short “Be a Consultant and not a Vendor”
It is also a great place to be in when you are with the prospect at a stage when they are not aware of their problem and make them be aware of the problem. You also would have seen the last minute RFPs that are sent your way are not the ones that you win because the first choice of rejection goes to the vendor who has unearthed the pain for the prospect.
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