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10 Best Sales and Needs Analysis Questions
Written by: Victoria Yu
Victoria Yu is a Business Writer with expertise in Business Organization, Marketing, and Sales, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.
Edited by: Sallie Middlebrook
Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.
Updated on October 11, 2023
10 Best Sales and Needs Analysis Questions
Without a need for the product, a customer will never buy. Even If you do manage to convince them to purchase, a lack of need almost certainly turns into buyer’s remorse over time, as well as a scathing review of your company’s overly pushy salespeople who force people to buy things.
That’s why, for the sake of your customer’s satisfaction and your brand’s reputation, it’s best to ensure that your customers are qualified to make a purchase and have a relevant need before you try and entice them to buy.
To that end, sales professionals need to be smart about the sales and needs analysis questions they ask their leads.
Sales representatives ask sales questions to potential customers to gauge their needs and purchase qualifications.
There are four main types of sales questions, correlating to the four main qualification criteria: budget, authority, need, and urgency timeframe.
The most important of these four is the customer’s need. This means that when asking sales questions, sales reps should focus a bit more on conducting a needs analysis.
By asking the right questions in the right order, sales reps can guide potential customers logically and naturally to a purchase decision and close sales quickly and easily.
Why Are Sales Questions Important?
Here’s the paradox: if a customer can answer “Do you need this?” with “yes,” then they’ve likely already taken steps to secure the product themselves and don’t need a sales representative to sell them on it.
Or there’s a legitimate reason why they can’t purchase despite wanting to, meaning that there’s no opportunity for a sale for your business. So what’s the point in asking anyway?
The point of sales questions isn’t to baldly ask if a consumer wants a product. Instead, they help consumers uncover hidden needs, and help sales reps identify which consumers would make the best customers.
Help Consumers Recognize a Need
If everyone immediately and logically bought everything they needed with no fuss, salespeople’s jobs would be much, much easier.
However, consumers often hesitate to make purchases that they might be better off making immediately. Maybe the person’s problem is still in its nascent stage or is too complex to understand the full scope of, or the customer simply doesn’t want to admit that the situation has gotten to the point of disrupting their lives.
To bring this pain point to light, sales reps must ask sales questions to the lead, helping them draw their own conclusion on whether they should purchase a solution to fix their problem or not.
Help Sales Reps Qualify Leads
Then, sales questions are important because they help a company determine if a potential customer (lead) is capable and willing to purchase from them and whether they meet the company’s ideal customer profile or not. This process is called lead qualification.
Rather than strong-arming any passerby into a purchase, asking sales questions and evaluating the lead’s answers can help a sales rep determine if the person would truly be better off making this purchase.
If due diligence isn’t paid in guaranteeing the customer’s product-need fit, the customer might come back asking for a refund when they’re inevitably dissatisfied with their purchase. Or, as we mentioned earlier, they might leave a poor review and damage your company’s reputation!
That’s why as a company, it’s important to establish a universal list of sales questions so that your entire team has a guide on how to quickly and accurately judge whether a lead is qualified to purchase.
Disseminated among your entire sales team, a sales question list helps ensure that everyone will be on the same page about what qualifies as a purchase-ready prospect and will know the best questions to ask to make that determination.
10 Questions for Effective Sales and Needs Analysis
So, what sort of questions do you need to ask to qualify a lead and determine if they’re capable and willing to make a purchase?
A quick shorthand companies use to qualify potential customers is called the BANT criteria, standing for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe. Essentially, it posits that if customers have the money, capability, and urgent need for a product solution, they’re ready to make a no-regrets purchase. As such, the best sales questions revolve around these four criteria.
However, one of these four is much more important than the other three.
That would be Need – without a clear sense that they need the product, a consumer will never purchase it, even if they meet the criteria for the other three. That’s why the most important part of any sales conversation is the needs analysis.
With this in mind, we’ll now look at ten different questions you could use to conduct your needs analysis and one each for the other three criteria. Put together, you’ll have a comprehensive sales questionnaire that lets sales reps quickly turn potential customers into qualified prospects.
1. “What does success look like for you?”
Start off on a positive note by asking about the lead’s vision for the future and the aspirations they have for their situation. This builds rapport and helps the lead crystallize and verbalize the difference between where they are now and where they want to be in the future in an ideal world.
Rather than starting out with more clinical business terms, having a casual conversation with more natural phrasing will serve you better in getting the prospect to open up about their current situation. From there, you can go into more detail about their situation and diagnose a need.
2. “What are your short-term and long-term goals?”
This question is a little more concrete, asking your lead for a clear step-by-step plan on how they plan to achieve the vision they described in the first question.
Using this roadmap, you can then begin to puzzle out where your product might serve as a stepping stone to help the lead achieve their goal faster or surpass the goal by a wide margin.
3. “What’s stopping you from achieving your goals?”
The next on our list is one of the most crucial needs analysis questions — determining if the customer has any issues or dissatisfactions with their current way of doing things.
Though we mentioned accelerating the pace or exceeding expectations in the previous step, the lead might be operating at that capacity simply because they like it or it’s most ideal, not because they’re restricted by anything. In those cases, pushing them into a sales pitch too soon would be like trying to force someone to run instead of walk.
If the potential customer instead expresses frustration at a bottleneck, subpar capacity, lack of time, or other issue, congratulations – you might have a sale in the making!
4. “How much of a priority is this issue for you right now?”
Finally, we arrive at our first non-needs-based question. Now that you’ve established a need, it’s time to qualify that need to see if it’s an urgent problem. After all, if it’s not a pressing issue, your lead is unlikely to make a purchase now and might decide to save the money for a rainy day.
In that case, the sales rep will have to spend a bit more time guiding the lead to confront the severity of their challenge, and convincing them that the issue is something worth solving.
5. “What have you tried to overcome these challenges?”
Now that you’ve established there’s an urgent need unmet, the next step is to dig a little deeper into the situation and find out exactly why it hasn’t been solved yet.
Perhaps they’re trying to solve the issue themselves or using a competitor’s product. In those cases, your sales pitch would begin by highlighting how your own product could solve their issue much faster or to a greater degree of success.
6. “What are your top three priorities when it comes to solving this problem?”
Once you and your lead are on the same foot about the fact that they have a problem that needs to be solved, it’s now time to put your heads together and begin crystallizing what an ideal solution would look like for them.
Asking this question helps hone in on the product attributes the lead values the most. From there, you can tailor your sales pitch to their exact needs.
7. “What’s your and your team’s greatest strength?”
Beyond the problem itself, another puzzle piece in the situation is the lead themselves and the team they’re working with.
Perhaps they possess certain skills or experience that could enable them to adopt your product faster than normal or leverage your product beyond the normal extent, which you’d be sure to highlight in your pitch.
8. “What’s your and your team’s greatest weakness?”
On the flip side of the previous question, asking about the team’s greatest weakness helps you identify areas where your product could shore up their defenses and support the team as they improve.
9. “If money were no object, could you imagine yourself using this solution?”
At this point, you’ve already gone quite in-depth about the prospect’s situation and need and should have a fair idea of exactly how your product or service would benefit them.
Now, all that’s left is to question the viability of a purchase itself – in other words, the budget.
But the key to enquiring about the budget is to not ask “What’s your budget?” outright. Doing so lets your lead anchor the initial price for your negotiation, giving them the opportunity to lowball you and forcing you to give discounts.
Instead, use the above question to introduce money into the discussion while keeping the focus on your product’s value proposition. By focusing on the product’s value to the customer, you’re better able to justify the price you set as well worth their money.
10. “Are there any other decision-makers whose input we should get?”
The last sales question goes to our last remaining BANT criteria, authority. At this point, you’ve probably already convinced your conversation partner that your product and the value it brings is well worth the price you set.
If you’re talking to the head honcho with full purchasing authority, all that’s left to do is seal the deal.
On the other hand, some prospects may need to run a purchase by their business partner, spouse, or other friend before signing off.
In those cases, you may also need to have this same conversation with the other decision-makers. But it will be made much easier now that you have their purchase-ready partner in your corner, helping you build your case so that everyone can agree to a purchase decision.
The best sales questions quickly and succinctly identify the scope of a potential customer’s budget, authority, need, and purchase timeframe. Having pre-designated sales questions helps sales reps keep their conversations on track and qualify leads as fast as possible.
By asking these 10 most crucial sales and needs analysis questions, your sales reps can increase the quality and speed of their sales conversations, leading to greater customer satisfaction and more sales closed for your business.
Though you ideally want to cover all 10 of these sales questions, there might be some cases where you can palpably feel the potential customer’s patience running out and know that you only have one shot of qualifying this lead.
In cases where you know you can only get one question in, we’d recommend opening with a question about their needs, which is the most important of the BANT criteria. In particular, “What’s stopping you from achieving your goals?” is the best, as it gets right to the point of asking if there’s an issue preventing your lead from success, which represents an opportunity to make a sales appeal.
Don’t get us wrong – you shouldn’t be using this list of 10 sales questions as an end-all-be-all checklist and robotically go through them. Think of them instead as a guideline for your conversation.
Go with the natural flow of the conversation and see if you can spot any points in the customer’s speech where you can dig a little deeper into their current situation and needs.
In some cases, your lead might also naturally answer one question while answering another, meaning it’d be awkward and redundant to ask them for the same information again.
Hold your horses! Just because the customer thinks they’re ready to purchase doesn’t mean that you should automatically send them straight to the bottom of the sales funnel. There may be cases where the potential customer misunderstands the finer details of your product or overlooked a critical factor, which might come back to bite them if they make an impulsive purchase.
Take a moment to take a step back and have a quick conversation about the details of the lead’s situation and needs, qualifying them as you would for any other customer. Since they’re so eager to get the purchase done, they’ll probably be happy to provide more details about what they’ve been going through and what they hope to accomplish with this purchase.
Once you’ve considered all 10 sales and needs analysis questions and confirmed the customer is qualified to make a purchase, all that’s left to do is to ride the momentum of a great sales conversation and assertively ask for the sale.
By this point, you and the prospect have likely already built a solid rapport and come to a mutual agreement that they’re capable and willing to buy. A great trick is to use an assumptive closing question such as “When will you be available to receive the delivery?” to neatly skip over the decisive moment and bring the sale to a close.
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