7 Tips on Conducting a Better Needs Analysis

Want to know the secret for significantly improving your sales results, generating more revenues and making more commissions or bonus?

Get better at conducting a needs analysis.

Depending on your target market and the product or service you sell, a needs analysis is quite possibly the most important activity in which you can engage.   Needs analysis help you AND your prospect identify areas of opportunity and areas of challenge. Done correctly, an effective needs analysis can also quantify those areas and ultimately determine if there is a need that your product/service can fulfill.   In other words, it is the key to sale.

Here are 7 tips to help you improve your approach to analyzing a prospect’s need:

Tip #1: Write out every single question you can possibly imagine

Here’s the toughest part but it’s worth the time and effort. Think of every single, solitary question you could ask your client relative to your product/service application. Everything: big or small, significant or insignificant.

And then write every one of those questions down on a sheet of paper.

I know. It’s tedious. But here’s what happens. First of all, this exercise gets you to stop and think. It makes you more thorough in your thought process because you have the time. Second, and maybe more significantly, this exercise begins to imprint the questions on your conscious or subconscious mind. It will help you remember them and conjure them up when conducting your needs analysis.

Tip #2: Group your questions into categories

You can do this step in conjunction with Tip #1. Where possible, group your questions into categories. This makes them less random, easy to access and easier to remember. Categories create another level of focus for you and help with the imprinting process.

For instance, you might have a category called “situational questions” which might be questions that ask about the prospect’s current situation or environment. These might be fundamentals such as number of employees, number of locations, types of niche markets, the machinery they use, the processes they follow, the software applications etc.

Another category might be ‘motivator questions’ i.e., those that explore possible challenges, problems and issues or opportunities, enhancements and improvements that your client might be experiencing relative to your product/service solution. Of course, these are important questions because they uncover needs and motivators.

A third category might be ‘analysis’ questions which are questions that get the prospect to quantify and elaborate upon a problem or an opportunity.

Tip #3: Ask yourself, “Why am I asking this question?”

By now, you should have a pile of questions. Now it’s time to cull and refine that list. Review each question and ask yourself “why am I asking this?” Is it vital information you absolutely NEED or is it nice to have?

Re-write those questions that you absolutely need to have answered on another sheet of paper. Write these in RED. They are ‘must haves.’ This is your “master list.” These questions go to the heart of needs analysis. Keep them in their categories.

In blue or black ink, below your master list, have your ‘nice to have questions.’ You can ask these questions if they are relevant or helpful to you and/or the prospect.

Tip #4: Ask yourself, “How will asking this question make my prospect feel? What will he/she think?”

Review your revised list and think about how your prospect might feel when asked. Some questions, particularly questions that probe for problems and concerns can be sensitive in nature. Some might feel defensive. Others might feel embarrassed. Others might be a bit hostile because you seem so ‘nosy.’ Think about this from THEIR perspective.

Identify the sensitive questions and then move on to Tip #5

Tip #5: Ask yourself, “What is the best way to ask this question?”

If you have a question that might make a prospect feel awkward, embarrassed, cautious, defensive or hostile, use a ‘softening trigger phrase’ before asking. A ‘softener’ is phrase that can take the ‘sting’ out of asking a sensitive question and make the prospect more receptive to replying.

For example, “Jim, some of the safety directors I have spoken to have expressed concern over the new OSHA ruling on … Let me ask, you what are your thoughts…” In this case, the prospect recognizes that he is not alone, that others have concerns, and that it’s ‘okay’ to speak up. He becomes less self conscious.

Here’s another one: “Debbie, hypothetically speaking, if you could improve production by 10%, what would be the net impact on profitability?” In this case, Debbie is not being held to specifics and not necessarily being held accountable for the estimate. In other words, she is not putting herself at risk because the question is creating a ‘make believe’ scenario. This makes it easier to truthfully answer.

Here’s one more: “Pat, sometimes clients see this as a sensitive question but I ask because it goes to the heart of what we can solve. We are finding that…” In this case, the softener trigger phrase warns the prospect that a potentially awkward question is coming up. In this manner, he/she is not caught off guard. In addition, the phrase explains why the question is being asked and implies a benefit for the prospect.

Tip # 6: Create a needs analysis cheat sheet

Once you have created your list of questions including softener trigger phrases, create a ‘cheat sheet’ or job aid. Use colored paper, use colored ink. Use large font. Hand write it or use Word and cut and paste. Put you questions on an 11 x17 sheet so there’s plenty of room. If required, paste two 11 x 17 sheets together. Make your needs analysis sheet big, bold and brassy. No one can see it but you. Post it where it is easily accessible and visible so you can reference it.

Tip #7: Drill, practice and rehearse asking your questions.

The last tip is to drill, practice and rehearse your needs analysis. You could do this with your manager, or a co-worker, friend or spouse. You can rehearse it in your mind. The idea is to familiarize yourself with the questions and get comfortable with them. Use your cheat sheet and get comfortable with it too.

IMPORTANT!

The objective of this entire process is NOT to ask every single solitary question, one by one, like conducting a survey. The idea is to ask the appropriate questions when required. You might begin with a few situational questions, then segue into a motivator question, then back to a situational question or two, and then move on to an analysis questions.

No one can teach you the flow of questioning. That is a factor of the client and the information that he or she gives you. But KNOWING the questions ahead of time ( having them imprinted on your mind) makes asking the appropriate question at the appropriate time much easier.

Summary

Good needs analysis differentiates you from your competition. Your prospects tend to see you as more consultative. You will get better, more relevant information. This gives you a distinct opportunity to sell more. Take the time and do it right

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