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Jeff Schmidt

Stop Doing Customer Needs Analysis Meetings


It was the summer of 1974. A dull orange AMC Gremlin pulled into the corporate headquarters of American TV & Appliance. The seller had secured a meeting with the company's president Len Mattioli. Len was known as "Crazy TV Lenny," a persona that was surely intimidating, especially to a radio salesperson.

This young salesman had a heart full of passion, a head full of ideas and hair, and a briefcase filled with Customer Needs Analysis forms. He was on a mission. As he sat down in front of Len Mattioli he explained that the purpose of the meeting was for him to learn about Len's business. The process was for him to ask a series of questions and conduct a customer needs analysis. The payoff was that he would be able to come up with ideas to help American TV & Appliance. "Mr. Mattioli," he said, "what days are you open late?" It's on the door!" barked Mattioli. On that day, Chris Lytle learned a very valuable lesson about pre-meeting planning and appropriate questions in a customer needs analysis.

Last week Chris and I conducted the second in our four- part webinar series sponsored by Radio Ink. The Radio Sales Success Expander: We introduced the concept of the Instant Needs Analysis. We provided tools and techniques on how to continue to gain valuable information from your prospects and clients without doing the dreaded customer needs analysis meeting.

Clients caught on to the whole "learn about your business" approach in the late 80s. They quickly grew tired of teaching salespeople about their business. The questions were the same, the process was monotonous, and the payoff rarely came.

Last week while conducting a sales meeting for a group of Iowa stations, I suggested they stop doing Customer Needs Analysis meetings and instead become sources of business advantage to their prospects and clients.

At the end of the meeting, the sales manager raised her hand.. Jeff, we still train our reps to do CNAs and we have the CNA form. You're saying we need to gather information before the meeting. Does that mean we don't do CNAs anymore?

I could hear the nervousness in her voice. Was I really going to tell her that they shouldn't do CNAs? Of course not. My point was, the way some people are still doing CNAs is a problem.

Gaining valuable information when meeting with a client is more important now than it ever was. Today, however, the gathering process isn't a meeting. It's every meeting. Every time you're in front of a client you have an opportunity to ask a question to gather more information.

A Customer Needs Analysis is no longer a meeting, it's a continuous process.

One the tools Chris and I shared during the webinar was the "Why Advertise" checklist; a list of reasons we have collected over the years about why clients advertise.

-- Build store traffic.
-- Improve image in the marketplace.
-- Improve employee morale.
-- Generate new business. 
-- and 32 more reasons . . . 

Hand the "Why Advertise" checklist to your prospects and tell them to choose seven reasons why they advertise. Then circle the three most important reasons. Here is where the magic happens. Not only do your prospects tell you they need to advertise, they tell you why. Your process is to ask about the items they circled. Dig deeper. Ask:

1. Why are those reasons important?
2. What's the current situation?
3. What would be different if these things were accomplished?
4. What needs to happen in order to get there?

That's an engaging conversation about the true needs of your prospects. It's not a questionnaire that starts with, "What days are you open late?"

There is nothing wrong with having a form that you use for Customer Needs Analysis. It's a good idea. The bad idea is to let the form direct the conversation rather than simply document the conversation.

Interested in more tools like these? Consider signing up for The Radio Sales Success Expander. We have two more live sessions left. The first two sessions are available for on-demand viewing.

Here is what current participants are saying about The Radio Sales Success Expander:

Kimber: "Not only was I able to brush up on what I've learned from The Accidental Salesperson but I learned new ways to approach the client, stand out from others, and be successful."

Julianna: "I think they are great investments for companies in their employees and as an Account Executive I really appreciated the information shared. For me personally, I really enjoyed your piece on getting a client's "financial attention span and starting with the largest schedule and adjusting budget levels from there." 

Roger: "Broadcasters need to practice what we preach. Every day we ask clients to invest in their business by advertising. Training is an investment. So is radio advertising. Both are essential elements of success."

Chuck: "I have found the Expander Webinar Series to be a very affordable way to reinforce the principles and skills that we practice with our sales team. Each salesperson comes away with two or three new ideas that they can implement that day."

Nicholas: "Another solid webinar that has our sales team discussing it for 20-30 minutes after we sign off."

Please take two minutes and go here to learn more. We'd love to have you on the next session.

Want a free copy of the Why Advertise checklist? Send me an email.

Jeff Schmidt is EVP and Partner with Chris Lytle at Sparque, Inc. You can reach Jeff at:
Twitter: @JeffreyASchmidt

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Sorry for the delayed response. I'd love to have a chat with you about this. Can you email me?

It sounds like you're suggesting only the sale manager conduct a needs analysis? Did I read that right?

I'd like to better understand how we "differ" because my bet is, we don't really.


- Jeff Schmidt
(2/17/2014 10:26:37 AM)
You're sending a mixed message to newer salespeople on the necessity of CNAs.
First, you say just ask questions all the time (Most likely will not be written down) and secondly, the process "are the same, the process monotonous, and the payoff rarely comes." I beg to differ. CNAs should only be directed by the sales manager. A followup meeting is to be scheduled exactly one week later, and an annual with demo ads are presented at that time. Our annual closing rate on this is 74%.

- Ralph

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