The tone and outcome of the sales conversation are set into motion by how well you uncovered your prospect’s needs early on. It’s impossible to adequately sell if you don’t even have a clear understanding of what your prospect needed in the first place! While that sounds like a no-brainer, many sales pros rattle off their list of differentiators and wait for the prospect to be impressed instead of asking clear, concise questions and listening to their responses actively.
There are two types of need you can uncover during these interactions: aspirational needs and frustration needs. Aspirational needs include things that the prospect wants and does not yet have. Frustration needs are born out of the pain points the prospect is experiencing with their current solution that they’re looking to solve.
Uncovering your prospect’s needs is simpler than you think
Believe it or not, the four key questions that drive the uncovering the prospect’s needs portion of the sale are pretty simple. The first three should be answered by the prospect and the last one, which may be the most overlooked, should be answered by none other than you! So, let’s dive into the four questions you must ask to uncover your prospect’s needs.
1. What do they need?
Straightforward, right? So many sales pros tell leads what they need instead of asking the lead what they think their needs are. If you believe in your product or service and if you know it like the back of your hand; it’s easy to assume that your prospect knows they need it. But you need to ask thoughtful questions to see where they are at.
You don’t need to bury the question here; you can simply ask them:
“What need led you to look for a solution?
“What problem are you trying to solve?”
“What pain points are you currently dealing with?”
“What small change would have an immediate impact on your day-to-day?”
Asking basic questions about what they need serves multiple purposes. It lets them know that this is a conversation, not a one-sided pitch. It lets them know that you are there to listen just as much as you are to talk, making them feel heard. And from a neuroscience standpoint, asking a prospect a question to begin the conversation forces their brain to focus in order to answer, thus ensuring you have their attention.
2. Why do they need it?
The second question is really a deeper dive into the need they’ve identified. Now that we’ve established the what we need to identify the why. Even when a lead has a clear idea of what solution solves their problem, it’s important for you to understand the problem itself. This is important because it proves that you care about their need rather than just the solution.
Additionally, walking through their why with them gives you the opportunity to reflect on whether or not they came to the correct decision about the solution to their problem. In best case scenarios, it sets you up to prove that your solution exceeds their original expectations!
3. When do they need it?
You know how they say ‘timing is everything’? Well, that’s very true in sales conversations. This question serves multiple purposes, are you sensing a pattern here? By talking through their timing needs, you’re expressing that you care about them getting their solution precisely when they need it. You also have the opportunity to impress them by exceeding their timeline expectations!
In addition to those points, knowing when they need a solution also informs your tone throughout your interactions with a prospect. If they needed this thing yesterday, you’re in a great position to ask for the sale sooner rather than later, provided you answered all of their questions competently. If they’re in no rush, you can act accordingly and avoid asking for the sale when they have no immediate impetus to close. Being able to understand and respond to their timing pressures can be a great asset and prove to the prospect that you sincerely care about their realities.
4. Can we actually help them?
Now, this is the question you yourself have to reflect on. Are you actually the right fit for this prospect’s needs? Does your product or service address their specific need? Be honest. Qualifying leads based on how well your solution corresponds to their needs will not only increase your close rate, it’s also just the right thing to do.
There are going to be many times where you’re talking to a prospect, you feel good about the rapport you’re establishing, but then you realize that you aren’t a 1-for-1 match for their need. The best thing to do here is to be honest with them and let them know that you understand their need, where it’s coming from, and what their timing requirements are, and with all that information you don’t think they’d be served by your solution. While this sacrifices a potential sale now, if & when they do have a need for your solution, you’ll be top of mind and remembered for your transparency.
No matter what, asking questions when uncovering need is only half the battle. It’s equally important that you’re an active listener. We know from recent developments in neuroscience that people’s brains produce oxytocin when they feel listened to, which results in the establishment of trust. Trust is a must when it comes to closing sales. Active listening means listening with 100% focus on both the words and the essence of what your prospect is saying.
Practice asking these four questions every time you’re meeting with a new prospect, and you’ll soon be on your way to forming relationships that will go from agency new business to a thriving, long-term business relationship.