This post continues the discussion on how buyers make decisions that began with How Buyers Decide Part 1 

The Need Diagnostic

The single most important sales skill is the Need Diagnostic.

The general principle: People have needs but don’t want to be vulnerable, so people hide their needs, even from those who can help.

In order to complete a sale, we may need to surface a need, while taking steps to protect the buyer’s self-esteem.

Need Diagnostic Questions

There are four sets of Need Diagnostic questions that help you overcome the wall of inertia:

  1. Questions to create cognizance to help the buyer move from latent need to awareness.
  2. Questions to connect the need to organizational priorities, to help the buyer position his project to win over competing projects.
  3. Questions to quantify the financial magnitude of the need to help the buyer build the business case.
  4. Questions to understand the priority of implementing the solution, so both you and the buyer can make a good decision about investing time and resources.

Questions to Create Cognizance

Questions to create cognizance start with role-specific diagnostic questions. Here are two examples:

  • A salesperson who is prospecting might say, “When I speak to (title/vertical), your colleagues sometimes say (state a need), but I don’t know you. Is your perspective different?”
  • “Starting off, would you mind sharing a quick overview to what you are looking to accomplish with a new BI solution?”

Create safe space to let the need blossom with questions like:

  • On a cold call, a soft entry into the diagnostic might be, “I called in out of the blue and this is a sensitive area. Without going too far, is there additional insight you can share?”

Move from abstract to specific with questions like:

  • “Is there a recent instance that stands out in your mind?”

Understand the history of this need with questions like:

  • “Have there been past efforts to achieve this?”
  • “Did you make significant progress?”

Questions to Connect the Need to Enterprise Priorities

  • “Stepping back to the big picture, is the impact on your organization important or relatively insignificant?”

Questions to Quantify the Financial Magnitude of the Need

  • “I don’t have much insight into your system economics. You have not mentioned cost. Have you concluded there’s no financial impact associated with this?”

Questions to Understand the Priority of the Need to this Person

  • “You are a busy person. My sense is that this may not be on your front burner?”

In the end, they buyer has to convince you that this need is a personal, emotional priority. If they don’t, then you will waste your time and theirs. If it is not a personal, emotional priory, they will never take action.


People decide emotionally and justify intellectually.