If you’re following along at home, you know I like to bring up the sales media playbook often and that it is the world’s most simple playbook – prospect, cold call, needs analysis, present, close and service. If done often enough and well enough, the job simply comes down to how hard you want to work at it and how much money you want to make.
While all the steps have importance, it’s rare that you’ll find reps (or managers) who are very good at all of them. To me, being really good at the CNA – or Client Needs Analysis – is what can really set you apart and make a good seller a great one.
The first thing I like to do on any first-time call is to thank the person for taking the time to learn more about how we might be able to help their business grow. They’re all busy people and clearly if they took the meeting they have some interest in learning more – but remember they only care about one thing, and that’s making more money.
Next, I try and put them at ease and let them know that I’m not here to sell them anything today. After all, how could I? What would I sell them if I don’t know much about their business. This is what needs to come from the CNA. Ask enough questions, dig for enough information and walk out of that meeting with the answer to the question, “What do they need that I can provide?”
There are literally thousands of questions you can ask in a CNA. Pick your favorites and stick with them, but also be prepared to take the conversation wherever it goes. Don’t read off a list of questions or have questions in a particular order. Nobody likes talking to robots, people like to have conversations.
My personal favorite topics to ask about start with the information we need the most – who they are trying to reach. Who are their very best customers. Don’t accept a generic answer such as “anyone who can drive a car,” keep asking questions until you can picture the person or people the client is describing. The more you know about the target, the more you can use their characteristics to narrow down where to reach them, when to reach them and what may be best to say to them.
My favorite topic to talk with a business owner about is why they’re better than their competition. What business owner doesn’t love to talk about the guy across the street and everything they do wrong. If you’ve gotten the client comfortable enough and you listen carefully, you should be able to write some good copy out of their answer.
I worked with a local hardware store once where the owner gave me a beautiful dissertation on why his store was better than Lowe’s and Home Depot. “My guys have been in this business for a combined 230 years,” I remember him saying. “At those big box stores, you could be talking to a kid who was in the toaster department two weeks ago!” I immediately went back to the station and had one of our DJ’s (of course, the one the prospect mentioned to me in the CNA that he really liked) cut an endorsement ad. The spot talked about how the people who work at the local store can help you with your projects because they’re incredibly knowledgeable with over 230 years of experience. It went on to ask why anyone would go to a box store, where you might be dealing with someone who was in the toaster department two weeks ago.
I’ll never forget the look on the hardware store owner’s face when I played him the spec spot. He loved it. The guy he listens to every day on the radio, just did a commercial using the store owner’s words he probably says several times a week to anyone who will listen. In this particular case, one good question and one great answer really are what led to the sale.
In most cases, the difference between making a sale and not making a sale is all about if what we ultimately present answers, in the prospect’s mind, the key challenges they have – the pain points or what it is that keeps them up at night.
Once you’ve gone through and asked a good amount of questions and really probed for the most helpful answers, this should be fairly obvious to you, but don’t leave the meeting without making sure you have heard everything correctly.
“I’ve already got some great ideas in mind of how we can work together, but just so I make sure I heard everything correctly, here’s what you’re looking for…” List off a few of the things you wrote down and give a quick recap. Now you should have all the ammunition you need to build a killer integrated marketing strategy to present, that will provide a solution to the business’ key challenges.
Lastly, but most definitely not least – what is the client willing to spend for a solution to their problem? You have to be able to leave the room with some parameters of a budget. I’ll generally start the money topic off by simply asking if they have a budget range in mind and when they, inevitably, say “I really haven’t even thought of it,” or “just put something together for me,” I will throw out various numbers until I get some information I can use. Hopefully, you’ve asked good enough questions about their products and what a customer is worth to them so that, worst case scenario, if you have to take a guess at it, the guess will be an educated one.
In the end, the better questions you ask, the better answers you’ll get. The better the answers, the better presentation you can make to addresses the needs of the client. The better the presentation helps fix the pain, the more likely you are to close the deal.