Only Present Sales Solutions To Needs

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Want, need, like on green cube“He keeps talking in techno waffle! I don‘t  understand half of what he says. I’ve got a simple problem that needs solving, not something that requires a Rocket Scientist!

A Confused Prospect

I come across this a lot.

You  might be selling something that is pretty complicated as it is; so why make it even more complicated by not talking in the prospects language? You’ve got to remember that you live and breathe your stuff – your prospect doesn’t.

So where am I going with this?

Well, the way that you unearth your prospects needs will make or break your sales results. This  is a process that goes from the general to the specific, which enables you to understand  your customer’s  general situation; discover more about his or her problems, issues and opportunities; and help him or her define specific needs. Most salespeople understand that they’re supposed to ask questions to determine  the needs  of their customers. They  also understand the difference between “open” and “closed” questions and know to understand a need before presenting the benefits of their products.

What they often don’t understand is that this is a two-sided, not one sided, process in which both the salesperson and the prospect arrive at a joint definition of needs that is:

• Specific and understood by both parties, and

• Worth doing something about.

As a salesperson, you know far more about your company, its products and capabilities than your customer will ever know. You know what your product can do to solve some problem for him or her, and you can see the benefits of your solution. Unfortunately, the prospect generally sees only his or her problem and not your solution, especially if you present it before the need is defined and agreed on.

So Instead of:

Problem > Salesperson’s Definition > Solution

Do this:

Problem > Joint Definition > Solution

The Difference Between A Problem & A Need

A problem is an existing condition that diverges from expectations:

•  Poor performance of a machine

•  Poor image of a company

• Poor financial standing of a division

• Poor attitudes of people, etc.

A need implies change, a desire to take action to correct a problem or take advantage of an opportunity to improve:

•  Increase or enhance performance

• Improve the image of the company

• Increase profits

•  Motivate people

A need demands satisfaction, but a problem doesn’t always have to be solved.


“We have a problem with our current equipment. It’s old and it breaks down. But, until our profits improve, we’ll have to live with it.”


“We have to upgrade our equipment -new copiers, computers, faxes – or our profits will never improve.”


Define all needs to solve the total problem


During this process, concentrate on identifying as many needs as you can before presenting any solutions, so that you come up with the best solution, not bits and pieces or partial solutions.

Although you may think that needs expressed should be addressed as they are identified, it’s tactically better to wait until you and the customer have identified all possible needs, and then build your total solution around them.

Don’t ignore needs that come up; acknowledge and confirm them so that when you summarise your understanding of the customer’s total needs, you will address all his or her needs as you build a solution to them.


Don’t present  benefits to stated problems; present benefits or solutions only to needs!

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image by Stuart Miles at

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Originally published: 13 March, 2014

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