One of your biggest challenges in sales is trying to uncover your buyer’s true needs. Buyers now perform so much research before engaging a seller that they usually believe they have a clear understanding of their needs along with the available solutions. According to CSO Insights’ 2018 Buyer Preferences Study, 90 percent of buyers said they’d be willing to engage sellers in the conversation sooner.

As sellers, your goal is to uncover the underlying pain points behind their perceived needs to offer a solution that delivers their desired business outcomes. To do that effectively, you have to understand the language of needs.

Though buyers perform independent research throughout their purchase path, sales professionals still have opportunities to engage early in the process. To differentiate yourself, you need to demonstrate that you understand your buyer’s desired outcomes. Let’s explore four essential sales strategy examples for using the language of needs to build rapport and uncover your buyers’ true needs:

  1. Develop a Clear, Complete and Mutual Understanding of the Customer’s Needs

Before you recommend a solution, you should be able to clearly articulate your buyer’s main business objectives. To become a trusted partner, you should dig deeper than the initial pain points revealed by your buyer in the discovery phase. That means understanding the pain points, along with what’s causing those pain points. When your prospective customer reveals insights into why they are currently searching for a solution, respond with comments like, “I understand that you have a problem with your outdated approach to managing enterprise workflows. Is that correct?” Follow up to explore the need behind the need—the underlying reason this need is important—with responses like, “In my experience working with companies in a similar situation, this can result in decreased visibility into production results. Is that what you’re facing in your situation?” When you get beyond the surface by eliciting the customer’s underlying needs, it causes them to engage you deeper in the conversation. The language of needs can help you arrive at a mutual understanding of the buyer’s true needs.

  1. Guide Your Customer in Expressing What They Need

To recommend the solutions that will fulfill your buyer’s desired outcomes, you have to uncover the customer’s true needs. The buyer needs a clear understanding of their true needs as well. This may be different from what they originally thought. The best way to achieve this is to guide the conversation with a series of questions, such as, “Are you saying that some managers in your organization don’t know what their subordinates are working on?” “Would you benefit from a system that gives managers real-time visibility over the status of projects?”

Mix in open-ended questions to uncover deeper insights that your customer may not have been aware of or previously communicated to you. An example is, “Could you tell me more about the impact on the workflow problems in your organization?” The key is to have the customer acknowledge a need to position yourself to offer a solution that solves their need.

  1. Respond to the Emotional Aspects of Your Customer’s Need

Once your customer acknowledges their need, they instinctively attach all sorts of emotions to it. They might feel frustrated that the need impedes their growth targets or sales goals. They might feel that their organization’s corporate image is being negatively impacted. They might even feel embarrassed that they have the need. You should recognize these emotions and offer comfort and support. For example, saying, “I know you never want to go through another quarter of missing your sales quota,” or “I really hope you never have to feel embarrassed due to not being able to access basic information about employee productivity.” By demonstrating empathy, you are building rapport and reinforcing their need to resolve the situation.

  1. End with a Need-Based Call to Action

If you listen for the language of needs and address them with relevant features and benefits, your next step is to mutually commit to move forward in the sales planning process. This request requires both you and the buyer to take action, which demonstrates deeper commitment. One example is setting the next meeting. You could say to your buyer, “I’ll put together a presentation that addresses the specific challenges we discussed today. Can you make sure that the appropriate people attend the meeting?” This should include the buying influencers who need to be in the approval process. This step helps to ensure that you and your buyer have the same expectations and that your buyer is invested in exploring your solution.


Using the language of needs is a powerful strategy for building rapport with customers, for conducting mutually beneficial conversations and ultimately for winning more opportunities. To master this selling strategy, develop a clear understanding of your customer’s needs, use guided questions to help your customer express their needs, demonstrate empathy for the emotional aspects of your customer’s pain points and end a conversation with a need-based call to action.

Interested in learning more about how the language of needs can help you close more deals? Miller Heiman Group offers a research-based training program called Professional Selling Skills that can help every sales person—regardless of position or tenure—systematically identify and offer solutions to customer needs.

Contact us to learn more about how Miller Heiman Group can help.

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