Good Salespeople Know What Customers Want; Great Ones Anticipate What Customers Need

Daniel Burrus
August 17, 2022

Daniel Burrus

One of the World's Leading Technology Forecasters and Business Strategists
Good Salespeople Know What Customers Want; Great Ones Anticipate What Customers Need

Sales is a constant in business across all industries. Without sales, there is no business, really, and without salespeople, the process of selling becomes quite cumbersome. But the fact that sales is so consistent in everything often causes the sector to stagnate quite easily.

And if you ask a salesperson if this stagnation is okay, they may even reply that stagnation is what their customer prefers! What they really mean is that the customer likes their status quo, and the status quo that a company's product or service brings them. Is this true, or is the customer happy in their status quo because said salesperson has yet to pre-solve problems the customer does not yet realize they have?

I have written in the past about the fact that all sales should be Anticipatory, and this stands true to this day. If you as a salesperson are not implementing an Anticipatory mindset and taking note of what Hard Trend future certainties may bring problems to those customers that can be solved not only by newer products and services your company provides, but exponential use of technologies, products, and services already in existence.

Accelerated Change Affecting Consumers

Anticipation is a vital competency in sales now and in the future due to the accelerated technological change affecting the world and customers' lives. Thanks to a variety of digital outlets, customers are more aware and more vocal than ever before about the problems they need solved.

But Anticipatory sales not only solves the obvious problems customers have, it also pre-solves problems that a customer may have in the future. Pre-solving those problems often requires delivering products and services to customers they never knew they needed.

In essence, this would be like a salesperson in 1994 delivering a solution to a customer who is speaking on the phone with a relative while simultaneously seeing something interesting happen in their front yard and wanting to capture it on camera. Obviously, a salesperson cannot sell what does not physically exist, but the point is that the customer does not know what they need, and your business likely has something that would get them closer to a solution.

As a salesperson, it is your job to leverage your human critical thinking to pair the customer with products or services exponentially. On the customer side, it is not the specific product, it is how they use it and the necessary doors you unlock for them to use it to benefit them better. In this case, sales is like customer service as well.

Exponential Use Increases Innovation

Business executives, managers, and product engineers, take note: A remarkable result of a salesperson guiding a customer toward a product or service and the exponential, outside-of-the-box use of it to solve current and potential future problems is a direct pipeline of innovation for the company.

Let's quickly revisit that example from above. If said salesperson heard from their customer that they would love to be able to show a caller what they are looking at via picture or video, this request is like having a literal crystal ball to predict a future certainty. If cordless phones already exist in this example, and a customer has this unique need, a salesperson can feed this directly to their team, which could start finding ways to deliver this product.

There are two problems when it comes to this part of the equation. First, many business executives and other leaders are not well-versed in technology or tech trends. Second, just as many leaders disregard what I refer to often as the cost of saying "no" to an idea. These may be two separate obstacles, but they go hand-in-hand in that when someone does not understand technology, they are more apt to disregard it or avoid it completely.

Getting comfortable around technology is a vital step in leveraging the benefits of Anticipatory sales internally in an organization. The more an executive or leader knows about how technology can transform products or services to solve the future problems of a customer better, the faster these solutions can be put into action and lead to positive disruption in their industry.

Redefining and Reinventing What You Already Deliver

Even as you innovate based on evolving customer needs, if you are in sales, you are helping your organization transform in positive ways by redefining and, in some ways, reinventing what they offer to customers. More broadly, by doing this, you are making a true difference in the industry outside of your specific organization.

It is important that you use my Anticipatory Leader System as a salesperson to practice Anticipatory sales correctly, keeping the focus on Hard Trend future certainties that impact the demographics of customers both old and new to your organization. You can also leverage new, transformative technology internally to better conduct what I call a pre-mortem -- a process of determining what problems a customer may have in the future and pre-solving them before a sales call even takes place.

This is all in an effort to build trust with your customers, which is something that all salespeople can agree is one of the most valuable assets to their careers. To foster trust in the future, showing a customer that you are dedicated to elevating their experience and solving their problems long before they have them while continuing to deliver positive results instills tremendous confidence in your products, services, and what you will innovate in the future.

Daniel Burrus

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