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Do You Really Understand Your Customer’s Goals?

by David Brock on October 29th, 2012

As sales people we are trained to do needs analysis.  We have questioning guides to help us determine customer needs.  Often, those are focused on identifying the needs that we address best.  Sometimes our questioning strategies go deeper, we try to prioritize, qualify, and quantify the needs.  This is critical, it helps us understand the sense of urgency or pain, as well as providing a basis for justifying our solutions.

But too often, we miss the real goals that drive the customer.  The real needs they want to address.  We need to understand their goals!  Yeah, I know a lot of you think this is some sort of double talk, don’t we understand this when we are trying to understand the customer needs?

What I’m talking about is, the goals each individual has—why do they come to work, why have they chosen their current job, what are they trying to accomplish for themselves?  It’s simple, but gut level stuff that drives each of us as human beings.  We aren’t driven by “improving product quality,” or “reducing design cycle,” “or improving customer service.”  We are driven by needs for recognition, “I want my boss and colleagues to recognize what I have done.”  We’re driven by getting some sanity and order in our lives, “I’d just like to stop feeling like I am drowning in my job and dealing with all the problems that are coming up.”  It may be “I’d like to get home to my family at a reasonable hour.”  If may be financial, “If I do this well, I’ll get a bonus.” 

Everyone has goals, things they are trying to achieve, things that make them who they are and underly what drives them at work and in their personal lives.

Our jobs as sales people are to understand our customers’ needs and goals.  Fancy needs analysis, focused on their operation and business is just a small part of the process.  We have to understand what drives them as individuals and human beings.  We have to make sure our solutions address their business and personal needs and goals.

Absent this, we aren’t doing the proper job of identifying “what keeps our customers awake at night.”  (Despite all other criticism, I still like this).

As a sidenote to managers, do you understand the goals of each person on your team?  No, it’s not just to achieve quota and get commissions (in fact, commissions may not be the greatest motivator).  Who are they, what do they want to be, what do they want to achieve, what drives them.  Until you understand this, you can’t connect with them, you can’t help them achieve their goals, you can’t help them grow, you can’t help them perform at the highest levels possible.  Isn’t this the core of your job?  (Thanks to my friend Mark Roberge at Hubspot for reminding me about this.)

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