How to Identify Client Needs: A Necessary Skill for Any Business Owner
What do you think of when you hear the word "client"? Do you picture a customer who pays for your services? Or does it evoke an image of someone with needs that need to be met?
In either case, clients are vitally important for any business owner. Without them, there would be no business and no one to send invoice templates to!
Clients are what keeps a business going, so it is very important to know how to work with them. One way of doing this is by identifying client needs.
Once you understand what your client's needs are, it becomes much easier to determine what is important and where your focus should be.
Client Needs: Why They Are Important to Identify
Some people might say that it doesn't matter what kind of needs a client has, as long as they pay their invoices on time.
While this may be not true (and I'm sure you know the importance of getting paid), there are plenty of other good reasons why identifying your clients' needs is important.
It's a way to show that you care and want your clients' business. When it comes down to choosing between companies, we all know that great customer service is what can set one company apart from another.
Create your company to be customer-centric by centering your business around the needs of customers rather than what you want. It is the best way to thrive and grow. You can elevate your success through understanding your customer needs.
It steers you away from expecting customers to adapt their needs to your way of doing business.
It doesn't matter what you sell or who you serve, a customer-centric company that listens and responds will always be better off than those who don't listen.
The benefits are numerous:
- Customers' trust is earned through service which leads to increased sales as well as repeat business.
- Customers are happier which leads to positive reviews and better word of mouth marketing.
- Customers get the service they need and want, which in turn saves their time.
- Customers are more willing to promote a business that benefits them.
- The customer-centric company is the one that will be more successful in the long run, regardless of the type of industry they are in. Identifying client needs can help you get there.
Identifying and Addressing Customer Needs: How to Get Started
Though it may seem daunting, you don't need an MBA or years of experience in business consulting to identify your client's needs. Here are a few tips for getting started:
1. Do your research and Build a Rapport
You should always do your research on potential clients before meeting with them. From the Internet, you can gather a lot of information that will help inform how to best address their needs and meet their expectations.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions
Once you've done some initial research, start by asking open-ended questions (those that require more than a yes or no answer) that encourage your clients to share some of their unique needs. Taking the time out to help them feel heard will go a long way towards building rapport and trust with potential customers.
- Offer solutions based on what you've learned
After they have shared some information about their business, ask if there is anything else they would like you to address in the proposal. This will give them a chance to share even more information and allow you to show that you listened and understand their needs.
- Build on your list
From there, add what they said to your existing research into a document that summarizes all of their unique needs so it is easily accessible when preparing proposals or for future reference.
- Start with the basics
If you're unsure about what some of their needs are, start by asking them to rank some of those items from most important or urgent to least. Then tailor your proposals and pitches accordingly so they see how your services will specifically address these issues first.
This is just a short list of ways you can get started. The most important thing is to take the time to listen and understand what your clients need before trying to sell them something.
2. Earn Client's Trust
Trust is the foundation of any great relationship. It's also the basis that customers need to feel like your business is worth investing in. Without it, there will be no repeat customers and even fewer referrals.
In today's world, trust is something that can easily be lost when a product or service fails to live up to the expectations set by an advertisement.
And we've all heard about products promising one thing in their commercials only to not deliver the same experience when the consumer tries to use it.
So, how can you earn customers' trust? There are a few things that will help:
- Be honest about what your product or service is capable of. Don't set false expectations by promising something you're not sure your company can deliver on.
- Showcase customer satisfaction and emphasize how your product or service meets the needs of other customers. This will help potential customers visualize themselves using it and give them a better idea about what to expect.
- Keep good records - It's also important that you keep track of any complaints or negative feedback received from past clients so you can address these issues in future sales pitches.
You don't have to be a business consultant to understand what your clients want and need. With just some research, attention to detail, and an open ear for their concerns, you can position yourself as someone worth investing into.
3. Showcase Sustainability
Sustainability is also important because it speaks volumes about how much care was put into the product's development process. This has a lot to do with the company's environmental policies and how much it cares about its customers' experience.
Some products come with a smaller carbon footprint, which is especially important for environmentally conscious consumers.
Others are made from materials that don't require deforestation or extensive mining to get their supplies. In many cases, these options can be more expensive, but they also make the product more durable and longer-lasting.
When researching your product or service, take some of these aspects into consideration:
- What kind of impact does it have on the environment? Does this align with what my customers want?
- These are just a few things to start thinking about so you can provide solutions that help both your clients and the planet.
- In addition to showcasing a great product or service, you also need to find out what makes your business valuable and worthy of investment.
- After all, it doesn't matter how good something is if other companies are offering the same thing at lower prices. This means that for your business to be successful, you need to find a way to make yourself unique.
4. Understand their Business Values
Make it a point to be friendly and empathetic throughout your interactions with clients. This will show them that you genuinely care about what they have to say, not just how much money you can make off of their business.
Listen to their needs and show them you understand how to address those concerns with your products or services. Understand their values and show them how your company can alleviate them.
If you're able to do this, it won't matter if they sign on for one of your services or all three. They'll be more likely to trust that whatever solution you offer is the right fit because they know you considered their time when proposing a plan of action.
Try to offer solutions that work for them, not just your company. This will help you develop a long-term business plan that ensures future success.
- Don't be formulating your pitch while the client is talking. Wait until you have all the information you need before responding.
- Minimize distractions, particularly if you know you get distracted easily. The simple gestures reflect your personality and build trust.
- Maintain eye contact and keep good records - It's also important that you keep track of any complaints or negative feedback received from past clients so you can address these issues in future sales pitches.
- Making sure you understand the client's needs and expectations will not only help you sell more, but also keep your customers coming back again and again.
5. Ask Questions and Share Insights
It's not enough to understand what your clients want. You have to be able to speak insightfully about their business and the services you offer so they can visualize how it'll help them reach future goals.
If there are specific concerns that need addressing, don't just say "I'm listening" without actually taking notes or trying to come up with a solution. Engage in client needs assessment to figure out the needs.
Ask open-ended questions that require more than just "yes" or "no". For example, if they say something like, "This is going to be difficult," you can ask them how it'll impact their operations and why they think this might happen.
If there's a problem with the product or service your company offers, always bring it up before your clients do. This shows you care about their concerns and gives you time to fix the issue.
- Don't make promises you can't keep or try to sell something that's not really what they need. Instead of focusing on how much money they'll be making, focus more on ways this product or service will help them save.
- If they're already using a competitor's product, don't try to convince them that yours is better.
- Instead, show how your products or services will add value on top of what the competition offers and provide ideas for integrating both into their overall strategy.
Make sure you understand all aspects of your client's business before pressurizing them into signing on the dotted line. It's all about taking your time to do research and showing that you care about what they have to say
6. Present your Innovative Ideas and Solutions
Once you've completed your research and understand the client's needs, it's time to present a plan of action that shows them how they can improve their business.
- Be patient
Don't just jump into telling them what will happen after they sign on. Showing enthusiasm for this opportunity is one thing, but overwhelming them with information is another. Take your time and let them ask questions.
- Think about the big picture
Don't just focus on what they need now, but also plan for future growth and success based on their current position in the marketplace. If you can show that there's a good reason to sign with you over competitors, then it doesn't matter if they sign on for the short-term or long-term.
Just because you've got a plan doesn't mean it's time to start pitching yet! You need to be able to listen and react when issues arise.
- Don't make it all about money
Focus more on ways they can save money and make time for themselves. If they're upset, address the issue by showing them how this will help in the long term.
If you can show that your solution is unique or has a differentiating factor, it's worth noting down as "added value" even if there are no additional costs involved with implementing those services versus competitors'.
- Discuss the plan and any concerns they might have
Don't be afraid to open up a dialogue about pricing, payment terms, service levels, etc. Get feedback from them so you can adjust as necessary before getting started on anything
Making sure your clients are satisfied with what you offer is not just good customer relations; it's good business. It's impossible to be successful if you can't prioritize what your clients need above everything else. If you show that you care about their concerns and work to address them, there's a good chance you'll see success shortly.
7. Work with their Schedule
Not sure why your client needs to sign an NDA or would want you checking in every few days? Communication is key, so don't lose touch just because they're not interested in signing up right now.
If they're happy with the idea behind your product or service but aren't ready to move forward yet, stay in touch with them. As you gather information, look for ways to improve the product so they'll want to sign on in the future.
Having a plan is useless if there's no one to help implement it! Focus more on what you can do right now and ask how others within your client's organization can support you while you're getting started.
Don't be afraid to pick up the phone or schedule an appointment just to see how things are going. They might have great news that makes signing on worthwhile.
8. Build Your Sales Process
Don't just "wing it" when it comes time for sales meetings. Instead, create a process that will help guide decisions both during and after meetings.
This shows your professionalism and lets you continue to improve your process without having to start from scratch every time.
Approach each client with a different plan of action, but be sure to show some consistency across the board. You might find that you don't need to do some parts of your sales meetings for certain clients, so hold off on those if they're not needed.
For example, emailing notes and ideas ahead of time is great because it can help them prioritize their schedule and respond appropriately. However, calling up last minute just because someone else wants in isn't good for anyone involved.
Don't give up too quickly! If there's an issue or concern, it's worth addressing before moving forward. Sometimes things seem worse than they are and you'll want to be around in case it gets better.
Focus on the future! While you're discussing current issues, don't forget that your goal is to sign on for the long term. Acknowledge their concerns, but remember that you need to show how this will help set them up for success.
Don't get discouraged if they don't sign on right away! Look at each experience as a chance to improve and prove yourself over time.
Even if they're not ready now, there's always a chance that they'll need your product or service further down the road.
9. Always Be Prepared
You can never know too much about your client's business or industry, so do what you have to do before meeting with them for the first time.
This means checking out their website, looking over any reviews online, and even reaching out to your contacts if necessary.
You want to impress them with your knowledge of their business without making it obvious that you were doing research beforehand.
If they need anything beyond what you can offer, make sure there's a way to accommodate. Maybe one of your competitors has something they'd like more or it would be better if you could provide something else entirely.
Always build in some flexibility during meetings because things don't always go as planned. If possible, bring multiple solutions with you so you can discuss alternatives instead of just dismissing the original idea. This shows how versatile your company is and that they're not stuck with just one option.
Sometimes there's just not enough time to go over every detail, so prioritize based on how important it is for them to see your solution.
It might be something you can bring up next time or discuss in further detail via email. You never know when you'll have the opportunity to step back in and present an idea again!
10. Keep Your Options Open
Even if you can't secure an account now, don't be quick to dismiss the client. If you need to, explain why this isn't a good idea right now and follow up in future meetings based on their feedback.
That way, they'll feel like your company is trustworthy even if they don't sign on with you right away. You never know what else they might be interested in or when the timing will better fit into their work schedule, so try not to get tied down by one opportunity.
This ensures that there's always something new for both parties to discuss! They're more likely to keep giving you a chance and recommend your business further down the road (which means more sales and opportunities ).
11. Be Available
It's up to you how much time you want to invest in getting to know your clients. Just don't forget that there are other people out there just like them! Working relationships are important, but it shouldn't always feel like you're being pushed into a corner.
For example, you might have an upcoming trade show or industry event coming up. Sending them updates about these things can remind them of your work and keep you on their mind even if they didn't sign with you right away!
When reaching out for the first time after sending something via email, it's best to do so over the phone. Each call should center around setting up a future meeting date or discussing further plans concerning the relationship.
You want to stay top-of-mind, but you don't necessarily need to contact them every single day (or even every week, for that matter). You can schedule automated emails or social media posts in between meetings to keep your name fresh in their mind.
Just remember that it's about selling yourself and making a lasting impression. Practice building rapport before talking business so they'll be more inclined to work with you! And whatever you do, don't stalk them incessantly because there's nothing worse than feeling like someone is taking advantage of your kindness!
Once the client signs on, both parties should be excited for what the future holds! If this was just the beginning, then now it's time to explore new opportunities and work together to see this business grow.
The above-mentioned strategies are just a few ways you can gain insight into your clients' needs and how to create an actionable plan that will help them succeed.
The strategies mentioned above might work for some, but not others: knowing when and who to use which strategy is part of the learning process. It's important to reflect on what works and doesn't to build a solid foundation for success.
Keep these key points in mind so you can build your clientele, keep them happy, and most importantly, help them achieve their goals!