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12DecWhy and How to Assess Customer Needs After the Initial Sale

The sale was made. The customer is on contract. Your job is to look for upsell opportunities, to keep the customer happy, and to renew the contract each year. So why bother to assess customer needs after the initial sale?

  1. how to assess customer needsIn a study with 530 B2B buyers, top-rated behaviors of sellers included “The seller engages in two-way dialogue with me as he/she strives to understand my needs.” In open-response comments, buyers praised sellers who ask thought-provoking questions.

  2. Your competitors are asking your customers about their needs. If they learn about a new need before you do, they have an opportunity to win your customer’s business.

  3. Needs change. Priorities change. What’s valued changes. If you’re operating on stale information, you might be missing the mark and losing out on opportunities.

  4. Asking quality questions and listening well will build trust, nurture relationships, and earn customer loyalty. Like any relationship, you have to continue doing the work after the initial engagement. Otherwise, you and your customer will grow distant over time.

  5. When you ask questions, you’ll learn more about the customer’s business. The more you know, the harder it will be for them to imagine doing business with someone else who doesn’t understand them as well.

What Questions Are Appropriate for Assessing Customer Needs Post-Sale?

Some sellers mistakenly believe that questions are only appropriate in the discovery phase of a sales process. Purposeful, quality questions are also effective in opening the sale, during a sales presentation to engage the buyer, in invalidating objections, when negotiating, and in nurturing long-term relationships.

In the discovery phase, questions help a seller get acquainted with buyers and their needs. After a sale closes, ongoing questions deepen the relationship and check for changes in buyer needs.

Quality questions go beyond “What’s new?” and “How’s business been?” These are throwaway questions that are too casual to be taken seriously. The responses to these questions will be equally casual and insubstantial.

Here are three kinds of questions that will be far more effective in deepening the relationship. These are from the research behind DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected. DISCOVER is an acronym for eight types of purposeful questions including:

1. Issue Questions (the I in DISCOVER)

Issue Questions can be used to surface any dissatisfaction or desired changes. This can be positioned as a routine service check like “Now that we’ve been working together for nearly three months, what could I be doing differently to better support you?” This question demonstrates openness to feedback and striving to meet the buyer’s preferred ways of doing business together.

Don’t be afraid to ask this kind of question. If the buyer is dissatisfied or wants something to be different, it’s better to know and adjust now than it is to scramble when the contract is up for renewal.

2. Example Questions (the E in DISCOVER)

Example Questions prompt the buyer to compare and contrast. You can use them to remind your customer of the positive changes they’re experiencing in doing business with you. A good before/after question would be “What are the positive outcomes you’re seeing with our product as compared to how things used to be?”

Here again, you need not be afraid of the answer. If the customer isn’t seeing or recognizing positive outcomes, you’re better off knowing this before it’s time for contract renewal. Having time to modify the solution and/or showcase unrecognized benefits will help you keep the business.

3. Rationale Questions (the R in DISCOVER)

Rationale Questions give you insight into a buyer’s decision-making process. Understanding how the buyer makes decisions enables a seller to be aligned with that process. Knowing what criteria are used in a decision gives a seller the opportunity to check the boxes and be favorably positioned.

Following a closed sale, a good question to ask is “What were the determining factors that caused you to choose us?” Later in the relationship, another good Rationale Question is “Walk me through the process you use to review vendor relationships and make decisions about renewals.” It’s best to ask this one several months in advance of the contract renewal period. This gives you time to prepare and position yourself! 

In addition to these questions, sellers should routinely check on changes in the business and buyer needs, emerging needs and priorities, and satisfaction with the product and performance.

How Do Buyers Respond to Questions after the Sale Has Been Closed?

Interviews with hundreds of buyers and observations on thousands of sales calls reveal that buyers appreciate and welcome sellers’ questions. Not all questions, though. Buyers respond favorably when sellers ask purposeful questions that are well-crafted. These are buyers’ most common responses when interviewed about specific types of DISCOVER Questions® that trained sellers asked them.

 

Type

Purpose

Buyer Response

D

Data Understand the concrete facts Low value if excess time spent here

I

Issue Surface issues with you or company Feel validated, like “being heard”

S

Solution

Introduce new ideas or alternatives Causes thinking, high value

C

Consequence Probe problems, impact of problems Shows empathy, concern

O

Outcome Probe goals, plans, desired future state Creates a sense of hope, inspiration

V

Value Learn priorities, hierarchy of needs Clarifies focus, high value on prioritizing

E

Example Draw contrasts to see pros/cons Helps with decision making, choices

R

Rationale Understand thought process Analysis shows care, “same page”

 

You can liken this to any other relationship you have. Not checking in and showing interest doesn’t help the relationship. It will appear that you’re taking the other person for granted if you make assumptions and seem disinterested in what’s new, developing, and of value to them.

Learn About the DISCOVER Workshop

 

Topics: needs assessment questions, customer satisfaction, customer service, DISCOVER Questions™

   
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