Needs-based selling, otherwise known as consultative selling, is a sales technique becoming far more popular than its traditional counterpart. The previously standard sales practice (a transactional model) was one where the salesperson focused primarily on the benefits their product provided and how those benefits can help companies. While practical, this model is no longer as effective. Why? Because the global marketplace is rapidly changing, and it’s only becoming more dynamic. As sales become increasingly complex, companies and organizations need solutions with more nuance. And that nuance is what transactional selling doesn’t account for: the specific challenges and strengths of the individual company.
The solution? Needs-based selling is based on understanding the customer’s specific needs, goals, and challenges; then matching a particular product or service to meet those particular criteria. In a nutshell, needs-based selling involves asking questions that reveal a customer’s objectives and challenges. But just like the market, the process is far more nuanced.
Ask meaningful questions
When it comes to needs-based selling, the seller’s primary objective should be to build a relationship with the customer, and you do this by asking the right questions. Ask the customer about their current needs, challenges, and accomplishments. Learn about the company’s infrastructure and long-term goals. The more information you have about the company, the more you identify their needs (and, as a result, what solutions will solve those needs.)
Ask questions, but at the right time
Needs-based selling is all about asking the right questions, but it’s equally about asking questions at the right time. If you enter a sales meeting with a customer and simply fire off question after question, sure, you’ll get a ton of relevant and essential information. But will you make a good impression? Not even close.
Don’t just ask a pre-set list of questions, but use the information surfaced within the meeting to provoke insightful follow-up questions. Not only does this demonstrate active listening and professionalism, but it also will uncover deeper insights and objectives the customer might have. Objectives both you and the customer might not even realize until the conversation surfaces.
You also need to balance your conversation with insights based on the customer’s answers to questions. Providing thoughtful insights into the challenges and needs the customer faces shows an intelligent salesperson and demonstrates that you can identify how to solve their problem.
Be agile, not just insightful
While providing insightful comments is paramount to a successful sale, the seller needs to be agile and flexible to adapt to whatever the customer reveals during the conversation. Both the buyer and seller might walk into a meeting with a specific intention to buy or sell a particular product. But often, the discussion reveals an entirely different problem that requires a wholly different solution. Being able to adapt and change your approach to fit the context will help the customer get the best product to solve their needs, even if it isn’t what they originally intended.
Guide, but don’t dominate, the conversation
Taking ownership of the conversation demonstrates the credibility of the salesperson. You should be unafraid to enter the discussion with questions and thoughts, and begin the dialogue. However, this doesn’t mean you should dominate the conversation. Guiding the conversation means provoking the customer to give you the information you need. And after all, how are you going to hear the information if you talk the entire time? Listen more than you speak, and let the customer’s answers guide your following answers, insights, and follow-up questions.
Sales is no longer about the quick sale; it’s about the relationship behind the sale. Customers aren’t just looking for an instant purchase, they want someone who can work with them to make sure they are making the correct business decision. Utilizing a needs-based approach not only identifies the problems that need to be solved, but it also builds the rapport and trust between buyer and seller that allows you to advocate for yourself as the solution in a genuine way.