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Thursday, July 24, 2008

NEEDS Have Nothing to do with Sales

I interviewed a sales candidate yesterday and he told me the two most important things about sales are listening and fulfilling your prospect's needs. Most people in sales would agree that these are important aspects about sales and this conclusion is unfortunately wrong.

First, people never, ever buy what they need. Needs are not relevant to any human action unless a matter of survival. (You will kill wild game with your bare hands if you are starving and need to eat to survive. In all other non-survival situations, you will not act based on your needs). Human action (unless for survival) is based solely on desire. The Centers for Disease Control report that 65% of Americans are obese and need to lose weight. But notice that most of those people are not on a diet. The only people that have called Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig or have placed themselves on the South Beach diet are those that want to lose weight. If you want to be a poor sales professional, keep focusing on prospect needs and you won't make any sales. Worse, take an a seemingly altruistic motivation to supply to people what they need (but they don't want).

This difference between needs and wants is not a semantic issue. I did some work for a VERY large insurance company. They have their agents complete a needs assessment for each new prospect. The entire indoctrination of their agents about prospect needs insures that their agents sales are significantly diminished. If the company simply changed the form name to "Desires Assessment" or "Wants Assessment", the conversation between the agent and the prospect would be altered, the prospects motivations for action would become more clear, more quickly, the prospect would be better served and the agent and the insurance company would make more sales.

People Don't Buy What they Need, They Buy What They Want

The second issue of importance to this sales candidate was listening. But the important question is listening to what? Listening to what the prospect says? Sit down because this will shock you: what the prospect says is irrelevant. If you listen to what the prospect says and respond to that, you will likely have the typical sales conversation of trying to convince, persuade and overcome objections. This is because your prospect is programmed to say things to ruin your sale, to interrupt your scripted presentation and to make it hard for you to close. So don't listen to what they say.

Listen and Respond to Your Prospects Concerns, NOT Their Words

Here's an example. A prospect may ask a sales professional at our company, Javelin Marketing, "where do you run your ads to attract prospects for my business?" In fact, the prospect could care less where we run the ads. The prospect is doing the best he can to use words to express his concern. His concern, if you really listen, is, "will you be able to get me quality prospects that will do business with me?" The sales professional who speaks to his concerns will avoid a needless conversation (about the various web sites where the ads run), better serve the prospect by addressing their actual concerns and close the sale is less time.