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Diagnosing Your Clients’ Needs by Tom Hopkins


When people think about making a purchase, they aren’t likely to compare talking with you to going to the doctor, but you should make that comparison when preparing to talk with clients. People trust doctors. They usually accept the diagnosis and prescription for wellness with few questions asked. That’s because they recognize doctors as experts in their fields.

Your goal is to have your clients see you the same way. When they have an ache or pain related to your type of product, they should immediately think of calling you. That’s because they’ll be confident you have the right prescription for their ills.

To earn this level of respect and trust, you need to start every relationship with the right skills. These skills include a caring manner, a confident air, and your diagnostic tools.

The tools you use in diagnosing the needs of your clients may be as simple as a pad of paper, measuring tape or calculator. They may include your past client experiences, personal experiences or memories. Diagnosing clients’ needs can require a computer, specialized software or even involve engineering or customized schematics.

The most powerful diagnostic tools used by all people in sales are questions. Like a doctor, your use of questions begins with general areas of need. Then, based on the answers you are given, you narrow your questions down to where you can readily determine the right cure or solution for the clients’ needs.

Average salespeople have this fantasy in which they think they should be able to simply present the wonderful features of their product and the customer, seeing the value, pulls out their checkbook or credit card and says, “I’ll take it.” If customers made buying decisions based on features alone that might work, but it’s a rare occasion when it does.

The reality of it is that most buying decisions are based on past experiences, the experiences of others the client trusts, advertising, gut feelings and hundreds of other factors that you can’t do much about.

So, you have to start with questions to get them talking about their needs, wants and perceptions of your product or service. These answers will help you put yourself in their shoes. Once you’re there, you’ll see what steps you need to help them take to make a good buying decision.

Be sure to ask “what past experience do you have with our type of service?” It could be that they’re very well-versed on the service, even used it in the past, and are seeking a new supplier. If they know little or nothing about your service, you’ll have to invest a bit more time in educating them as to what your offer entails and what they can expect.

Ask very specifically what they hope to accomplish with an investment in your services. It could be that one of your key benefits is sought after by most clients. However, that feature does nothing for this client. You won’t want to turn them off by talking about something that doesn’t matter to them.

I like to use the analogy of a torpedo when talking about this subject. A torpedo leaves a ship in the general direction of its intended target. It bounces a signal off in the target direction. If the signal doesn’t come back, it corrects its direction to get back on course.

That’s what questioning does for you. You take off in a certain direction with your questions. The answers you receive either tell you that you’re on target or that you need to take another tack. Rarely will you take a direct course from initial contact to the sale. More often than not, you’ll find yourself zig-zagging but all the while heading in the general direction of the sale until you find just the right answer for each and every client.

Take a moment to think about all the tools you use with clients and evaluate how fluent you are with them. If you are weak with any of them, commit time in your day planner or calendar to improve.
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Tom Hopkins International
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