Real Tips for High Impact Software SalesPeople What is the Difference Between What Customers Need and What They Really Want - By Bill Brooks, America's Sales Coach

A widely held belief is that people buy products or services. There is also an even more widely held misconception that people buy what they Need. The real truth is that people buy the end result that they Want rather than the product or service they may Need. There is also a big difference between a salesperson being Needs based and Needs obsessed!


To put it differently, people will eagerly buy what they Need from the salesperson or organization who understands what they really Want. As the old adage puts it, a lot more beer is sold than Bibles. There are also a lot more sugar coated cookies consumed than bran muffins. Chevrolet sells lots of 4-wheel drive vehicles in West Texas. A place where people certainly don't Need4-wheel drives . . . they just Want them.


Let me ask you a perplexing question. One that lots of people have difficulty answering. And here it is:


What is the real difference between what a prospect Needs and what that person Wants?


In observing over 7,000 sales interactions, we discovered that prospects actually verbalized what they wanted less than .01% of the time. The reason for it is simple. Most people don't know what they Want.


Here's why. Wants are below the surface while Needs are above the surface. I know I Need a new car. However, I will ultimately buy the one I Want! The feeling or emotion behind owning it is what I Want. Needs are totally rational while Wants are purely emotional. Needs are based on fact while Wants are grounded on perception. Needs are product or service specific while Wants have very little, if anything, to do with the product or service being offered.


A few good questions about what customers really Want . . .

  • Do prospects like small talk?

    Fact: Over 74% of customers dislike unsolicited small talk by salespeople.
    Prospect Want: "We'll talk if I want to."

  • Will prospects tell you they don't want to engage in small talk?

    Fact: Less than 0.8% will tell you that it bothers them.
    Prospect Want: "I won't tell you I don't like you. I just won't buy."

  • Do customers trust salespeople?

    Fact: 64% of all buyers say they don't trust any of the salespeople they've bought something from in the previous 24 month period.
    Prospect Want: "Salespeople I can trust."

  • Should salespeople change their title to "consultant" or "advisor"?

    Fact: 72% of prospects perceive words like "consultant" or "advisor" to be slick or manipulative.
    Prospect Want: "Straightforward, professional salespeople."

  • What do prospects remember?

    Fact: When the average decision maker doesn't buy, he or she remembers fewer than 10 words (verbatim) spoken by a salesperson doing a presentation.
    Prospect Want: "Give me a presentation I can understand."

  • How persistent should I be?

    Fact: 74% of decision makers feel that persistence is not an admirable trait for salespeople.
    Prospect Want: "Leave me alone. I'll buy from you when and if I want to."

  • How "data dense" are most sales presentations?

    Fact: The average salesperson presents 6 - 8 features or benefits in a sales presentation. Twenty-four hours after the average prospect remembers one. In 39% of the cases they remember it incorrectly. In 49% of the cases they remember something that wasn't mentioned at all!
    Prospect Want: "A product that does what I want it to do, explained in my terms."

What does all this mean? Quite simply this: prospects and customers are far different from the way that most salespeople traditionally perceive them as being. The secret is to make prospects feel good and then to be there when they feel so good that they'll buy! When they feel like that they'll buy again and again.

What kind of person talks too much?

Our survey of 1,311 decision makers revealed one, singular answer. It was simple and straightforward: salespeople! The solution to this is simple. Talk less, ask more questions. Sell people what they Want . . . offer them what they Need. And, as Frank Bettger wrote so well in 1949, "They will move heaven and earth to get it."

This commentary was provided to us by Mr. Bill Brooks, CEO of The Brooks Group, a sales, speaking, training and consulting firm based in Greensboro, North Carolina. Mr. Brooks holds the Certified Professional Consultant to Management Designation from the National Bureau of Professional Management Consultants. He is the only person in the world to hold the two highest designations from the National Speakers Association concurrently with this designation.


The Brooks Group has been in business since 1977. Mr. Brooks has provided more than 2500 fee paid presentations to clients of all sizes, such as General Motors, IBM, NationsBank, Arthur Andersen, A.C. Nielsen and over 1000 other corporations and associations worldwide. Mr. Brooks has doubled the size in sales volume, employees and clients since the start of the business.

The Brooks Group, 1903 Ashwood Court, Suite C, Greensboro, NC27455
Phone - 800-633-7762, Fax Number - 910-282-5707 and
Email - 102334.3254@compuserve.com


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                         March 7, 2006