Are Customer Needs Assessments Dead? Part Two

Part Two: What You Should (and Shouldn’t!) be Asking in Your CNA

Last week in Part One of this post, we talked about how adding in powerful recommendations will help guide your CNA and lead your client to get the most out of the CNA process. But sometimes, you need more than recommendations to steer them on the right path.

Guide Customers with Success Stories

When you create a comparative conversation, you’re actually comparing the customer that you have on the phone to other customers that you’ve had who are very, very happy.

Here’s an example. “Bob Jones has been advertising with me for 6 years. Do you know Bob? Every time I talk to Bob he says he loves working with us.” I share what they love about me, what they love about our digital options, what they’ve loved about the company, and what they’ve loved about the experience. Then I can begin to compare customers.

But sometimes we salespeople don’t like to do this because we feel like we’re talking about a customer behind their back. But we’re not. What we’re actually doing is shouting from the rooftop how happy other customers are with us.

And if they’re happy, then this new customer probably will be, too. And happiness is ultimately what we’re seeking and what our customers are seeking.

Be Weary of One-Way Conversations with Clients

When you have a linear, one-way conversation with a client, you keep them inside their own bubble. It’s not until somebody gets out of their bubble that they realize, “Oh, other people out here are happy, they’re being successful, and I want to be like them. What are they doing? What is their plan? How did it work for them? What made them happy?”

As a media salesperson, if I can help customers be as happy as other advertisers, then all of a sudden they start buying what it is I’m selling. It’s a simple sales concept that works and that resonates with customers.

I’ve had the opportunity to walk through and be a part of almost every sales training program in America, from Carnegie to Sandler. And a problem I see is that they focus on a one-way conversation where you identify somebody’s pain and then you fix that pain.

That’s great in theory, but as a salesperson you can actually take it to the next level by telling them about other happy customers whose pain you have eliminated. It’s about proving that you have done something for other people. It’s about getting beyond the old fashioned Customer Needs Assessment to start recommending products, sharing success stories, and creating comparative conversations.

So, What Should You Ask in the CNA?

In these conversations be mindful of the questions you ask and make sure those questions take you to a better place.

I strive to ask the questions other salespeople don’t. I don’t ask, “What keeps you up at night?” Instead I ask, “If we could help bring you one perfect customer, what would that customer look like?” Or, “When you agreed to meet with me, was there a business challenge you were hoping that I could help you solve?”

I’ll say it again. Rather than asking about their budget, I’ll say, “If we could help you be bigger and better than your nearest competitor, what would that look like?” “In the past, what have you done to solve these types of problems?”

Or I might use something back from my good old Sandler days like, “What is the biggest challenge that you’re facing right now that you think I can help you solve?” Next, “How long has that been a challenge or a problem for you?” Next, “What have you done in the past to fix that problem or remove that problem from the greater equation of your business?”

When you ask your questions, remember these ideas I espouse in my ad sales training program: Most people want to be led. Most people like recommendations. Most people don’t like a linear conversation—they want to know what others are doing and what you have done to help other people.

Breathe New Life into the CNA

The Customer Needs Assessment isn’t dead necessarily, but if we don’t breathe some new life into it, if we keep doing the same thing we’ve always done, we’re going to get the same result. If we want to see a different result, we’ve got to do something different.

Try to be an advisor instead of a salesperson. Breathe some new life into your Customer Needs Assessment.

And managers out there – sales directors, sales leaders – look at the questions your media salespeople are asking prospects and customers. Make sure they’re updated and reflect the current situation we’re in.

Then finally, always remember. If ad sales was easy, everybody would be doing it. And they’re not. So we’re either crazy… or we’ve found a career that will feed our families for a lifetime.

About Ryan: Ryan Dohrn is an award-winning ad sales training coach, a nationally recognized internet sales consultant and in international motivational speaker. He is the author of the best-selling ad sales book, Selling Backwards.  He is the President and founder of Brain Swell Media and 360 Ad Sales Training, a boutique ad sales training and sales coaching firm with a detailed focus on ad sales training, internet consulting and media revenue generation. Ryan is also the Publisher of Sales Training World.