This is an excerpt from my second book, Managing the Sales Process, available on Amazon.com. You can find a series of these excerpts in a dedicated blog category to get a broad overview, post-by-post, of the book (they are listed in reverse order in the category, so start with the oldest).

From Chapter 2 – The Right Skills: Needs Analysis

Needs analysis is the heart of a great sales effort. In the steps prior to needs analysis (generating leads, prospecting, qualifying), the macro concept is “should I engage with this person?” After needs analysis (proposal, objections, and closing), the macro concept is “can we wrap up a deal together?”

Needs analysis ─ right in the middle of it all ─ is where the salesperson learns what needs to be fixed and what it means to the prospect to fix it. This is discussed at length in my first book, Mastering Your Sales Process, so I won’t go into detail here. But if the salesperson does not have an adequately detailed idea of what problem the prospect wants to solve, the solution that is offered will be at least just enough “off-target” to fail to convince the prospect to move forward.

For many professionals in sales, needs analysis is thought of as finding “pain” (or some similar concept, like “compelling reasons” or the “core problem”). The main idea is to discover what is important to the prospect, why, and what it is worth so that we can make a good suggestion about fixing the problem. The more the salesperson understands all of the relevant information, the more likely that the prescription will be seen as a potential cure.

Your prospective salespeople should be able to demonstrate the ability to conduct needs analysis to you during the interview process. Do they ask good questions? More importantly, do they make sure that they understand your answers before moving on? Do they ask great follow-up questions? Do they demonstrate a genuine interest in learning about the company, the job, the industry, the products, and your requirements for the successful candidate? If they do this well in this situation, you will know that they have the capacity for needs analysis with your prospective customers.

If you are interested in assessing and maximizing the effectiveness of your current sales people with respect to needs analysis, there are three things you should do:

First, make a team exercise out of building a list of everything you might ever need to know about your prospects and their needs for your products or services. If you have multiple products or services, a separate list for each one might be appropriate. However, unless you are wildly diversified, a large percentage of the items probably will be common to all of your products, so a core list and item specific addendum might also work.

Second, have a sales manager or coach go on sales calls with the salespeople to see how needs analysis is done. Don’t let the manager sell during the sales call, but rather coach the salespeople afterwards to help them see what they do and what they can do better. Done in conjunction with the list, this can be even more powerful and will engrain the list concept into the thinking of the reps.

Finally, on lost deals, go back through the list with salespeople and identify what you did not know before the proposal was made. Add newly found items to the list, and the process comes full circle. Use the list! This will help you develop skilled needs analysis within your salespeople. Skilled execution of needs analysis will better flesh out the problems your product or service can solve, allowing it to be sold much more easily.

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David