What exactly is a needs analysis, and how do you do it? These are questions we will answer in this article. Continue reading to learn about our needs analysis model and become a pro at how to perform a needs analysis that creates insights and a willingness to buy.
What is a needs analysis?
In B2B sales, a Needs Analysis is often carried out during the first customer meeting. In larger transactions, more than one meeting may be required to sort out what the customer’s needs are. The purpose of the needs analysis is to identify the gap between where a customer wants to be and where they are today.
The purpose of a needs analysis is to understand the customer’s needs, by asking the customer a variety of questions. This way you can see if there is something your product/service can solve.
Also, read our article about customer value and how you can create value for the customer here.
Your template for a world-class needs analysis
When doing a needs analysis, there are four areas you need to be an expert in identifying. Below is our template for needs analysis that summarizes the areas and what each means.
1. The first area of needs analysis: The desired result
You need to find out what the customer wants to achieve, both in the short and long term. And you need to become good at really understanding what different goals the customer has.
Once you’ve found out what your customer’s different goals are. Do you want to become good at understanding why specific goals are important? Above all, you need to understand what is the most important goal right now.
2. The second area of needs analysis is: Purchase criteria
For you to have a chance to sell to the customer, you need to ensure that you know the customer’s purchase criteria. Different purchase criteria can be:
- Experience from the customer’s industry
- A fixed delivery time from the time the order is placed
- Product specifications, configurations, or clean features
- Specific payment terms and guarantees
Once you have gained an understanding of what the customer’s purchase criteria are. In the next step, you should find out what the requirements are for the customer. Requirements are things that are important enough to the customer that they are willing not to make a deal if they cannot be met. When you start asking the customer questions, you’ll probably help the customer understand that most of the requirements they’ve lined up are wishes.
3. The third area of needs analysis is: Personal purchase motive
Once you have understood what the customer wants to achieve and what purchase criteria they have, your next step will be to find out the customer’s motives. And the personal motive is something many salespeople tend to miss.
Remember that you are doing business with people. And as human beings, we are driven by emotions. Therefore, you need to become good at understanding why it is important for the customer to make a decision.
- Does the person want to be seen as innovative?
- Maybe they want to take the next step in their career.
- Is it about proving yourself in a new workplace?
- Maybe the person wants to make more money.
- Is it a problem that keeps the person up at night?
Regardless of why the customer needs to make a decision, you as a seller need to become good at understanding what the personal motive is. If you succeed, not only will the customer want to buy, but they will want to buy from you.
4. The fourth area of needs analysis: Profit & Loss
The fourth and final area of the needs analysis is based on profit and loss. An important method is to delve into the loss. What does the customer risk losing by not acting, buying from you, or making a decision? You need to become good at asking those kinds of tough questions. At the same time, you also use the information you received earlier in the needs analysis. What does happen if they do not achieve their desired result? What would that mean for their personal goals?
After you talk about the loss, the energy in the meeting has probably gone down. Just when the customer is at their lowest energy level and thinks that they would miss out. Is the perfect time for you to shift focus. Instead of talking about the loss, you get the customer to think about what they can gain by acting and buying from you.
The reason why you need to ask about both profit and loss? Research from Daniel Kahneman shows that people are more afraid of losing something. Then they are motivated by winning or achieving something new. Hence, we ask about losses. But to awaken a motivation, will, and joyful collaboration. Does the customer also need to understand the benefits of the collaboration?
Sharpen your needs analysis with our insight-driven question method
You have been given a template with 4 areas to make a world-class needs analysis. But how are you supposed to find out the required information during a meeting? The answer is by asking questions. And not just any questions.
To help you ask the right questions and arouse an interest in the customer to want to buy. You will get an insight-driven question approach. The question method will help you control the needs analysis and find out what you need about the customer. So what parts does the insight-driven query approach have?
- The first step is to ask the customer about their wishes. If you call the customer in 1, 3, or 5 years. What does the customer want to tell you that they have achieved then?
- The second step is to ask the customer questions about their current situation. Where are they today? What challenges do they have? What works well?
- The third step includes change issues. What does the customer need to do more/less/differently to succeed in achieving their goals?
- The fourth and final step contains questions about value. What would it mean if they achieved their goals? What value does it create for the company’s employees, customers, and for the person you are talking to?
Create your question battery and improve quality
To make sure that all salespeople ask the right questions. It may be a good idea to create a battery of queries. The battery of questions guides the seller through the customer meeting and ensures that the necessary questions are asked.
The advantage of a battery of questions is that the quality of the needs analysis meetings is increased. This means that salespeople, regardless of experience level, can make good meetings together with potential customers. A further effect is that the entire sales force increases the quality of their needs analyses.
A disadvantage of question batteries can be that the meeting becomes too structured and “robotic”-like. To counteract this, you need to make sure to practice the implementation of the needs analysis with your question battery. The advantage of this is that you get better at finding “bridges” between different types of questions. The effect will be that the meeting feels more natural for the customer and the seller will be able to create a more personal meeting.
Examples of the most common mistakes in a needs analysis
Forgetting to ask questions about the customer’s long-term goals
It’s common for salespeople to forget to ask the customer about their long-term goals. Which makes it difficult for them to understand when it may be relevant for the customer to purchase their solution. The risk with this is that the customer turns to another supplier. When they feel ready to invest in the area you can contribute.
Gets tunnel vision on the first need the customer mentions
Salespeople are sometimes so focused on finding a need that they stab at the first thing mentioned. The disadvantage is that the first need does not have to be the most important for the customer. And that makes you easily end up in the “supplier tray.”
Fails to handle the customer’s perception
Many salespeople fail to ask about and manage the customer’s perception. The risk with this is that the customer tries to adapt their answers. After what they think you’re interested in. This means that you do not find out needs that you can solve.
Assume that they understand the customer’s needs
It is common for sellers to assume that they understand what the customer is looking for. Often it is a consequence of forgetting to summarize the customer’s needs. So that the customer gets an opportunity to clarify and add things to the seller’s picture of the need.
Does not ask questions about the customer’s past experiences
Salespeople may perceive the question of the customer’s past experiences as a loaded topic. What if the customer has had a bad experience with a similar solution/supplier? The risk if you don’t ask the question is that you don’t know why the customer is skeptical and cautious.
Does not capture the personal motives of the decision maker
You work in B2B sales. Then you don’t have to ask about the decision-makers personal motives, do you? Yes, you do! One of the most common mistakes salespeople make is that they think that way. Your customer may be a company, but the decision-maker is a human being and people have feelings. The risk is that the customer does not have sufficient motivation to act if you miss the motives of the decision-maker.
Does not coach the customer through the questions they ask
Instead of coaching the customer on what they need to do. Asking sellers a lot of questions. To then go ahead and persuade the customer. No one likes to be persuaded. Your customer wants to own their ideas and initiatives.
Frequently asked questions about needs analysis
How do I get better at doing needs analyses?
There is a lot you can do to get better at needs analysis, but the most important piece of advice we want to send you is the following: Practice doing needs analyses. You need to train together with colleagues and in real customer meetings. Then make sure to constantly develop what questions you ask, how you use the answers you get, and how to create a stronger relationship in the meeting. Here you must involve a manager or colleague who can identify things you may miss.
If you or your sales reps need to develop their ability to conduct needs analysis, you can let them join our Sales Acceleration Program. Through the sales training program, they will learn more important techniques and structures in the sales work and they will receive direct coaching while they practice applying what they have learned.
Why should I do a needs analysis?
The most important reason why you need to do a needs analysis is to be able to recommend the smartest solution to the customer. While you’re doing your needs analysis, you may find that the customer is only looking to cure one of their “symptoms” instead of addressing the real root cause. Only when you understand what the customer’s goals are, where they are today, what changes are required, and their motives, can you recommend the smartest solution to the customer. Then you lift yourself from being a salesperson to becoming an advisor for real.
What is good to think about?
Something good to keep in mind is to ask the customer many follow-up questions. Instead of settling for the answer “We want to grow”, you need to understand how much they want to grow. Is the customer talking about revenue growth or number of employees? Only when you have dug deep enough that you understand what the customer means can you move on to the next point in the needs analysis.
What questions should I ask?
To ask good questions, you first need to ensure that you have similar definitions of the topic being discussed. Maybe your customer thinks that salespeople are just those who have the title of salesperson while you think that all the people with customer contact who are trying to solve their customers’ problems are salespeople. Then you will most likely encounter problems in the conversation and it is important to sort it out first. Then you can go in and talk about what they want to achieve, where they are now, and of course, ask questions about why things are important. We can’t give you an exact script for what questions you need to ask to make a good needs analysis. However, we can inspire you by giving some examples of questions to ask to find out what you need about the customer:
- What is your opinion of us at Salesonomics?
- What are your expectations for this meeting?
- If I call you on New Year’s Eve next year, what do you want to tell me you’ve achieved by then?
- On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with your current solution for this area?
- What do you see that you need to do differently?
- What obstacles do you see linked to these changes?
- What would it mean to you if you failed in your goal?
- If you succeed, what will it mean for you and the company?