03 Aug 2018
Effective selling: understanding customer need
Written by Doug D'Aubrey

Effective selling comes when belief in your product or service is combined with an understanding of your prospects’ needs.

In my previous blog, Effective selling: know you product, I explained how a belief in what you’re selling increases sales. I also explained how to provide your salesforce with that belief. The perfect alchemy however is to use that belief to answer a problem for your prospect.

Understand customer need

No-one wants to be sold at. How many times have you been at the end of a phone call thinking, “you don’t even know me, or what I need”? A salesperson’s belief can be a turn off in that situation, they’ve found out nothing about you!

Before you can begin to sell, you need to understand the customer and what they need, only then can you offer your product or service as the solution.

Ask open questions

Asking open questions will assist your fact-finding. Let’s say you’re selling water coolers. What questions might be asked on a sales call? I found myself on a such a call recently, the seller simply asked “would you like a free trial of one of our water coolers?”. Firstly, this is a closed question, where there could only be a yes/no answer. The problem with closed questions? The prospect can say no!

Had the seller built up some rapport and found out more about my needs, the outcome could have been very different. Asking open questions would have facilitated this. For example, the caller could have asked things such as:

  • How are you enjoying the hot weather?
  • How are you coping with the heat at work?
  • What are facilities like for making drinks?
  • What’s the water like where you are?

Establish pain points

Asking these questions may have uncovered some pain points for the prospect, allowing the salesperson to present their water-cooler as a solution.

For example, through open questioning, the seller could have found out information such as the tap water is unpleasant, the kitchen is on another floor, there’s no air con and so on.

The seller could then have empathised and introduced the water-cooler as a solution. For example “I hate it when tap water has a funny taste to it too. Our water coolers are filled with natural spring water which is much nicer to drink than tap water. I can send one out on a free trial so you can try it out for yourself, can I confirm where to send it to?”

This is a very simple example, but demonstrates how much easier it is to have a conversation when you understand a customer’s need. When you do this, a sale becomes much more likely.

Examples of other open questions

Make a list of the type of things you could ask to uncover your prospects’ problems, to which you could offer a solution. Remember, open questions only! Here are some general examples to get you going:

  • What’s your experience of…?
  • Tell me about your business?
  • How do you find the service offered by your existing supplier?

So, be passionate and believe in your product, but be sure to listen first! Uncover a need to which you can sell a solution.

As ever, if you need any help going through these processes, why not contact me for a free new business review? I’ll spend two hours with you giving you professional coaching on starting a business. I’ll leave you with actions for immediate implementation.

Doug D’Aubrey.