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See a Need, Meet a Need

I heard about a family once who had only one house rule. The rule was “see a need, meet a need.” No one in the family had any assigned chores, there weren’t any “you better or else” conversations, and there wasn’t any mess and fuss in their house.  The single house rule was effective because everyone followed it. If someone saw a need, they immediately met the need. No family member took a single spoon out of the dishwasher when it stopped running. Instead, seeing the need for the clean dishes to be unloaded, the spoon-seeking family member would put all the dishes away.

It’s a little different at my house. It’s a little different, too, for most sales professionals who could also benefit greatly from employing this simple rule.

Here’s how it would work in sales. Sellers would be ever-vigilant, even hyper-vigilant in looking for buyer needs. With an openness to discover and recognize needs, sellers would see more than they currently do. And they would meet the needs as soon as they saw them.

In most sales organizations, it doesn’t work that way. Instead of starting by being on the lookout for buyer needs, sellers start with an agenda of their own. They are singularly focused on selling their product. They pitch that product without regard for customer needs, often pitching to anyone and everyone no matter how irrelevant the product may be for them.

It’s equivalent to retrieving the spoon without unloading the dishwasher, missing the larger need because the bowl of ice cream is all you can think about in that moment.

Sellers who expand their purview do see more needs and do get more sales. They don’t wait for the obvious need like a ready buyer declaring “I want to buy the product you are selling” or the assumed need like a buyer who is buying from a competitor and could (we assume) do better buying from us.

Sellers who are needs-based genuinely “get” the buyers they work with and, because they do, they can anticipate and magnify emerging needs. They can create solutions to meet the needs they see. They can close more sales because they meet more buyer needs.

To expand your purview and tap into more needs:

  • You can read industry publications. What’s going on with one company is likely to affect other similar companies. That’s a need!
  • You can set up Google alerts and get news about your buyers pushed to you. As soon as news breaks (stock prices are down, a new executive is named, a product is announced), you can be thinking two steps ahead to anticipate domino-effect needs.
  • You can ask yourself one simple question every time there’s a change with or near the buyer’s business. Let’s say you’re stuck in a traffic jam on your way to an appointment with the buyer. It turns out to be a massive construction project on the highway, right at the exit that leads into their plant. The question you need to ask yourself (and, perhaps, the buyer) is “What’s the impact on the buyer?” Change equals need.
  • You can look for the metaphorical unloaded dishwashers at your buyer’s “house.” What isn’t getting done? What is a constant source of stress? What’s unfinished because everyone is focused on other things? There’s an underlying need there. Tension and unresolved issues always indicate need.
  • You can ask. Many, many buyer needs go undiscovered simply because a busy seller didn’t take a moment to inquire about current needs. When you assume you know everything you need to know, you will miss needs.

See a need, meet a need. Be on the lookout for needs constantly so you won’t miss seeing a need or meeting a need. You can practice this technique at home, starting with the dishwasher…

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