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Listening For Needs

3 min read

Your mind, like many salespeople, has fallen into the “solutions trap.” Even though you heard Susie’s needs, you jumped ahead and start trying to solve for them.

If you’re in sales, you know the importance of understanding your client’s needs. But how well are you listening to their needs?

To test your listening ability, imagine your name is Mike. You are working at a local pet supply store when an overwhelmed customer, Susie, walks in and tells you this story:

“Mike! I’m so glad you’re here. I need your help. 

I cannot believe this is happening! Our family has wanted to adopt a dog for such a long time and last week we picked up our new puppy, Buddy. While he is exactly the dog that we had been searching for, the last week has been a nightmare. Buddy doesn’t want to eat his food, he’s having accidents in the house, and he has so much energy that he is quite literally bouncing off of the walls. My two-year-old was nearly knocked down the stairs! To help him burn some of his energy, we’ve taken him for short walks before work but it’s just not enough. I’m at a loss — I don’t know what to do!

To make matters worse, my husband and I can’t seem to get on the same page about how to deal with the dog. When Buddy starts getting into trouble I yell ‘NO’ and my husband yells ‘OFF’… and the dog has no idea what we want him to do. It’s so frustrating, Mike!

The icing on the cake is that I’ve been working late preparing for the end of the quarter. Between meetings, dealing with an unending stream of inbound emails, and writing reports, I barely have time to think about how to deal with the situation at home. Yesterday morning, I woke up with hives! I don’t know if I have an allergy form the dog or if it’s from all of the stress! 

Do you have any ideas on how we can turn things around?!”

What needs from Susie did you hear? You may have thought:

  • A new type of dog food
  • House training pads
  • A dog walker
  • Safety gates for the stairway
  • Allergy medication
  • More hours in the day
  • A strong drink

Although all these things may be true, they aren’t necessarily needs.

In fact, your mind, like many salespeople, has fallen into the “solutions trap.” Even though you heard Susie’s needs, you jumped ahead and start trying to solve for them — a strong drink will solve her problems!

Instead, re-frame your mind’s thinking and understand needs as verbs. When talking about Susie’s needs, try this instead:

“So Susie, what I’m hearing you’re saying you need is this: 

  • To find a brand of food that Buddy will enjoy eating
  • To housetrain the dog
  • To find a way for the dog to be calm and submissive 
  • To keep your children safe
  • To manage work demands with the needs at home
  • To manage stress 
  • To determine if you have a canine allergy
  • To find a way for you and your husband to get in alignment, speaking a common language with common goals

Is there anything else?”

If you’re Susie, you’ll feel one thing: heard.

And this is what you want your clients to feel. They’ll feel as though you care enough about your partnership to genuinely understand the challenges that they’re facing. There’s no better praise for a salesperson than a client saying, “You understand my needs better than anyone else.”

Make that a reality in every sales call. Before you try to solve your client’s needs, listen to what they’re saying.

Do you know the difference between active and passive listening? Learn it here



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