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The Need Behind the Need

By Carla Bolognesi, Solution Architect, FINEOS

In sales there is a commonly known technique called “finding the need behind the need”: it means searching for the real driver of a purchase or sale. It is applied by asking probing questions which draw more information from the customer. If you can dig out what problem they are trying to solve (the need behind the need), you are more likely to move the sale forward and give the client the right product or service. If you are in the business of selling IT products, and tailor them to a particular customer needs, such strategy should flow seamlessly from pre-sale to post-sale services. There are subtle changes in the way the concept is applied post-sale as you have now moved into more refined requirements, but you are still verifying that what the customer says they want is really the right thing for them. That’s how you can truly deliver business value.

A former boss of mine used to say that as experts in our product suite, it was our duty to advise the customer on the best possible solution to their business problems. At the time, what he was trying to avoid was the customer being presented with too many alternatives that simply confused matters and delayed decisions. As I have become more experienced as a consultant, I have come to realise that his advice could be pushed one level further. Not just “given the problem find the best solution”, but ”find the real problem and only then give the solution”. What is the need behind what you are being asked to do?

As a consultants you should avoid locking your customers in highly customised solutions that become then difficult to manage and expensive to upgrade. When put in front of a request that seems to be heading down that road you should be inquisitive enough to figure out if there is a different and/or simpler need behind it. If so, evaluate the possibility of a less expensive solution, one that would lead to a better use of your product. It is a common pitfall to assume that to deliver customer satisfaction you have to be able to say yes to anything you are asked. Truth is, sometimes it means having the guts to suggest a different approach.

Consider the following scenarios:

  • The customer asks for a feature that is not an easy fit into your product
    • What need is the customer trying to address?
    • Was this feature a solution designed around the legacy system they are replacing? Is there a functionality in your product that could be used to achieve the same goal? Could a change in business process make the adoption easier?
    • Is there a genuine gap in your product? Could the feature or a modified version of it that delivers the same business value, be suited to be included into your product? This may not remove the initial cost of implementation but it would remove the cost of ownership
  • You are presented with a requirement that has strict and costly constraints
    • Is this the true requirement? Or are you being given what the client think is a solution to his problem?
    • Can the constraints be relaxed a little? Are they just nice to have?

In both situations it is worth spending time to ask yourself those valuable questions. You may end up having to design and deliver what you are being asked, but other times you may get to give your customer something even better than what they asked, something they didn’t even know they needed.

Consultants have the responsibility to uncover the customers’ true needs and deliver high quality solutions that are cost effective and sustainable.

Finding the real driver behind requirements, the need behind the need, seems like a good mantra even after the prospect has signed on the dotted line. That’s where customer advocacy starts.