Find Out the Why Before the What
Traditional sales people are fixated on what their customers need and not why they need it, and what they have to lose if they do not get it. Why they need something is far more valuable and critical for the sales person to learn than what they need.
So instead of being focused on moving forward to the ultimate sale, sales people need to move backwards to get to the core of why a customer with potentially change or buy.
I look at selling as a process of elimination, a deconstruction, or a removal process. What is the customer willing to give up or sacrifice is very important as to whether change is in the cards. You have to deconstruct the past before you can construct a future for your customer regarding your solution if you want to sell strategically.
Remember, all reasons to buy or stay with the status quo is a function of decisions about trade-offs. Instead of running off to the races and trying to sell something to someone, sales people should first establish the barriers and roadblocks to change first.
Because sales people tend to look predominantly for easy answers and solutions, this removal process can be challenging for the uninitiated. Step back and rewind, instead of winding up and jumping forward.
When you slow down the process by rewinding, you can provide your customer greater value in doing a cost/benefit analysis and giving them much-needed context. Keep in mind, most customers do not need more information, they need more unbiased perspective.
You need to be focused on identifying problems, more so than solving and providing solutions. By deconstructing problems, you allow your customers to work out the pros and cons of changing, buying and making better decisions.
When you understand the cost of change, you will recognize that there are always problems in the transition of doing something different. So help your customer answer important internal questions such as; is the timing right for them, where else could they invest to get a better return, can the problem be fixed internally, and if they do not change what would be the opportunity costs?
Find out the whys for change, and the question of what they need will frequently be self-revealed by itself. By focusing on why the customer wants something you truly bring value and trust to the selling equation.
The "why process" requires a trusted sales person who brings valuable insight. The "what process" is a low value process that yields low value returns, typically transactional customers and can be easily executed by the equivalent of a talking website.