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Successful salespeople recognize the criticality of learning about and fulfilling three types of needs for each person with a stake in the business problem that's the basis for a sale:

  • Service needs
  • Financial needs
  • Emotional needs

[Just because someone is in your pipeline doesn't mean she's a prospect.  Most people enter your pipeline as Suspects, i.e., members of a category of people likely to have the same problem or condition. Only after a Suspect has explicitly acknowledged a demand-creating problem does he or she become a Prospect.]

Service Needs: The “What” of the Sale

Lawyers tend to be most cognizant of service needs, e.g., what legal services the prospect actually wants performed. Service needs are driven by business issues: industry issues and company issues, usually related to business strategy or operations.  Their value is expressed as the impact a solution has on the Buyer's business processes.

Given the legal profession's long history of reactively accepting business vs. proactively selling, most of you are used to responding to a business problem that's already been defined as a legal need; you limit your attention to the legal service involved.

To sell professionally in a competitive market, get in the habit of probing for and exposing unannounced business problems and demonstrating how a legal solution will deliver (at least part of) the desired business outcome.

[RainmakerVT subscribers: Login and go to "Learning the Company-Specific Flavor of your Door-Opener" in the Getting Found section. This simulation will teach you how to get your prospect to define the specific, tangible negative impact they're now experiencing from the business problem under discussion.]

Financial Needs: The “How Much” of the Sale

Financial needs refer to how the Buyer perceives the relationship between what she must give up (Cost) and what she gets (Value).

Whether expressed as hourly rates or total fee, the Cost side of the equation is always tangible. The Value side must be equally tangible. That means we must get better at helping buyers quantify the Value of what they get.

For example, a sales training program promises a 400% return on investment. Using the "get and give up" terms above, Buyers know that when they "give up" $50,000 in money for training, they'll "get" sales coaching until they make $250,000 in new fee revenue from it. This is an easy decision to understand.

What if, instead, for $50,000, what they "got" was "better salespeople?" "Better salespeople" sounds like it's good, but is it worth $50,000? That's a much tougher decision to get comfortable with. It's comparing apples and oranges.

For lawyers, the first step is having a reliable sense of what it costs a client to accomplish certain outcomes, e.g., $7500 to file a biotech patent.  That's what the medical products company will have to give up. Very tangible.  What will they get?  "A patent for a titanium knee joint" sounds desirable, but it's pretty vague and, financially, hard to compare against $7500.  

This is why, during your discussion of Service Needs, it's important to help the prospect be as specific as possible about the current negative impacts. With you facilitating, from those specifics the prospect derive perceived economic impact, giving you a tangible number that, compared to tangible cost, constitutes expected return on investment.

Decision making is risky. Comfortable decision making depends on clarity. Make your prospects' buying decisions easy by showing them how much more measurable value you deliver than you measurably charge. It will be also easier for them to defend their buying decision or recommendation against the inevitable challenges from other stakeholders.

[RainmakerVT subscribers: Login and go through the Cost of Doing Nothing simulation, which is Step Two of the Decision Process course in the Getting Chosen category. You'll learn the proven process of extracting these specifics from your prospect.]

Emotional Needs: The “Why” of the Sale

Emotional needs are the WHY in the selling equation. Whereas Service- and Financial needs benefit the company, emotional need benefit the individual. They're personal gains that satisfy a Buyer's self-interest. Examples of such needs:

  • Look good to the boss
  • Avoid embarrassment
  • Feel like a leader or forward thinker
  • Demonstrate loyalty.

Emotional needs are why someone actually buys. Service and Financial needs are how they justify buying.  This is the essence of What's In It For Me.

Deciding means risk taking. Until a Buyer can see personal gain, they have no motivation to take risks and advance your sales proposition.

Here is a simple way to learn emotional needs. After you confirm Service and Financial needs, ask: "How can we do this in a way that makes you look good?" In the 40 years I've been selling, Buyers always answer. Most times, their emotional needs are foremost in their minds and during your conversation they've been trying to think of a graceful way to introduce it into the discussion without looking selfish or unprofessional. When we take them off the hook by asking, they're relieved, and happy to tell us.

[RainmakerVT subscribers: Login and go through the Cost of Doing Nothing simulation within the Decision Process course in the Getting Chosen category. You'll learn the critical sequencing of exploring these three buyer-need categories.]

Fight off your natural tendency to focus solely on your "product" (what you do and how well you do it) and the Practical needs it fulfills. Instead, continue the investigation to learn how this prospect describes Financial and Emotional needs. Only by addressing all three types of needs can we avoid a frustrating No Decision.

Want to understand how the No Decision problem affects your return on your business development investment? Download our free eBook, "No Decision: The Blind Spot that Keeps Lawyers from Doubling Their Income."