How To Differentiate Between What The Customer Wants & Needs

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Smiling lawyer, realtor or financial advisor handshaking young couple thanking for adviceDo you know what the difference is between a need and a want?

A lot of people think that they are the same but they are different.

When selling it’s important that you understand the difference between needs and wants because you need to appeal to both during the sales interaction.

And understanding this element of sales is always one of the most important areas that any Sales Training course will cover.

Let’s take a closer look.

What is the difference between needs and wants?

Look at needs as those things that are vital for survival and a want is something that you desire.

Wants are almost always linked to an emotion that the want gives you.

You need food to survive right? But why do you have that expensive cut of steak? The answer is that you want it, you’ll love the taste, maybe how it looks and if you’re on a date then you want to impress your partner. They are all wants.

The need would be to put calories in your body for survival. The want is everything else.

When a want and a need are aligned then you have a lay down sale!

In terms of selling think of needs as MUST-HAVE-DO-OR-DIE criteria. These MUST be fulfilled. Wants are everything else.

When selling to someone listen very closely to the language that they use because it will reveal all and what is most important to them.

Here’s an example:

“The car needs to have 4 doors because of my kids and also Bluetooth because I travel a lot and want to sync my phone with the stereo. It must be economical too because I travel in excess of 20,000 miles per annum to and from work. Bit of poke would be nice and I’d like heated seats and a wireless charger”

So let’s take a look.

The MUST-HAVE-DO-OR-DIE items were:

  • Four doors
  • Bluetooth
  • Miles per gallon

These MUST be fulfilled first before anything else so as a salesperson these would be your go to items to cover off before you look at the others items which were nice to have wants.

They were:

  • A bit of poke
  • Heated seats
  • Wireless charger

So those 3 items could be negotiated but the 3 must have items would not be. Now if you had a car to sell with all 6 features then it should be one of those lay down sales that I mentioned earlier as long as the price was right.

If you had the 3 must have items and say 2 of the nice to have items then you could have a sale if you included something else.

Uncovering the customers needs and wants

Imagine that you need a car to get to work each day and to drop the kids off at school. So you’ve made the decision to buy a car because you NEED it.

But the brand, the make and the model that you choose will be based on your WANTS. If it was a simple as getting from A to B then everyone would be driving low cost cars that did the job.

But purchasing decisions are not made like that!

That’s a really good example of grasping the difference between customer needs and wants and is one that I recommend that you take into yours selling interactions.

Normally the decision has been made to make a purchase to fulfil a need. Your job as a sales person is to cater for their wants and this is where the majority of your focus should be.

That doesn’t mean ramming benefits and features down the customers throat.

Customers hate to be sold to but they love to buy.

Give the customer a good listening to

So how can you illicit the customers needs and wants?

Well, it all comes down to the quality of your questioning and listening skills.

Consultative selling skills are a must when it comes down to understanding needs and wants. It’s not a one way sales pitch here. Instead you should be asking lots of questions around why they want something, how they want it, the impact it will have on them and what’s important when they make decisions like this.

And what they don’t want is as important as understanding what they do want. Your customer may have made purchasing decisions in the past and have got their fingers burned.

“And I don’t want the payment protection cover because I’ve never made a claim in over 20 years so I’ve been wasting my money”

Now imagine a sales person trying to convince this customer that they do need it? It will probably come over as pushy and that it is in the self-interest of the sales person’s commission rather than what the customer wants.

Some people have fears about what will happen in their business if they don’t achieve their goals. By helping them move away from those situations, you lessen the fears and help them build confidence.

Others have opportunities to achieve goals and they need help to move towards them. This is a chance for you to discuss the gains they would get from your products and services.

Never sell anything unless you understand their needs and wants

“Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice” It’s an old one but a good one.

Your Doctor wouldn’t prescribe medicine or drugs without first asking you lots of questions around your symptoms and situation. The same can be said with selling.

Never sell anything without first understanding the customers needs and wants.

You can then tailor your interaction with them on the areas that are most important to them. Not the areas most important to you.

Want to learn more? Then why not book a face to face Sale Course with MTD.

Alternatively why not try an Online Sales Training solution which range from LIVE webinars through to online courses.

Happy selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo

Sales DNA

Originally published: 7 May, 2019

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