THE days when customers were offered a “one size fits all” product or service are numbered. The future is all about needs-based selling and fully customised service.

This requires knowledge, skill and the right attitude. To be a needs-based seller, you have to marry sales professionalism with great personalisation so you can go way beyond the “sales spin” your competitors are so dependent on.

The needs-based selling approach will not just help you to attract new customers and retain them, but will also create champions of your products and services and net you new buyers.

The result is a winning combination of higher profitability for you, your team and your organisation and greater fulfilment, happiness and delight for your customers.

To get started on needs-based selling, you must know your customer’s needs. Some questions you must know the answers to are:

Why are your customers are having a conversation with you?

Customers talk to you for three reasons: to create a new status quo, to repel an old one and maintain the present status quo. This question helps you to find out their purpose of engagement and should be one of the first things you ascertain, so you can serve them better.

What is their inclination on cost?

Your customers almost always have a figure in mind, even when they tell you they don’t. If your product or service is above their budget, you need to address why your charges are higher than what they are willing to pay.

If you charge less than what customers are willing to pay, you also need to explain why you are cheaper.

If your price is “just right”, you benefit from what I call the Goldilocks Syndrome: Customers will lap up your product. But this rarely happens.

What is the quality they desire?

Contrary to what you would like to believe, buyers do not always go for the best quality even though the price might be right. This is why the best organisations customise products according to quality tiers.

Ask your buyers about the kind of quality they are looking for — good, average and poor — and meet their needs. While you can invest time in educating them on the value of greater quality, at the end of the day, the buyer has autonomy of choice.

What is their underlying value tone?

This is very often ignored by all but the most sophisticated needs-based sellers. Are you aware that your buyers need to meet their own value judgment on the products and services they purchase? Here are the judgments all buyers subtly make, depending on the product or service:

* Will this be good or bad for me?

* Will this be helpful or harmful for me?

* Will this make things successful or cause failure for me?

* Will this enhance or diminish my identity?

* Will this make me more knowledgeable or ignorant?

* Will this make me more secure or compromise my safety?

* Will this make me happier or more unhappy?

* Will this bring me greater freedom or take away my time?

* Will this bring me peace of mind or chaos?

What features and functions do customers really need?

Ask them about the features and functions they need and those that they can do without. Ask them about how they plan to use the product and then find the right fit. You don’t like to pay for things you don’t need and neither do your customers.

So keep your selling strategy lean and in tandem with your customers’ needs. When they realise the high ethics with which you operate, they will come back to you and bring other clients too.

How do they want to pay for their purchases and can you meet their needs?

Sometimes, even when the sales process seems to be going well, the transaction still fails because the preferred payment mode and structure are missing.

Offer flexible and accommodating payment modes. Accept cash and credit cards, and offer instalment plans, loans and repurchasing schemes to make it as convenient as possible for customers.

The above points are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being a needs-based seller. How do you and your organisation match up?

Keep on doing what you are doing well and plug the gaps in your service. Work on helping your sales staff develop the right mind sets, skill sets and business sets, so that it is a win-win situation for customers, the organisation and its people.