Give them what they need – not what they want


by Ron D’Andrea


Wants verses needs in dialogue

Procurement professionals often talk in wants: a lower price, faster delivery, more services. But just listening to what buyers say they want prevents the sales team from drilling down to the underlying needs, which is where sales people must be to differentiate themselves, their solutions and their companies. 

Sales professionals must avoid having their solutions become commoditized, and instead turn their focus from price to real value, lowest total cost, and highest ROI. 

There is a real difference between wants and needs.


  • Are easily communicated
  • Are specific and measurable
  • Greatly narrow the range of positive outcomes

To truly sell to and negotiate value with procurement professionals, the sales team has to dig beneath surface wants to identify, prioritize, and gain agreement on the underlying needs.

By understanding why the buyer wants a lower price, or faster delivery, or more services, the sales team opens up the opportunity to provide creative solutions that meet the real underlying needs, and, thus, close deals more quickly and profitably.


  • Lie beneath the surface
  • Are general, intuitive or vague  
  • Greatly expand the range of innovative outcomes

Needs fall into three categories:

  • business
  • technical
  • personal

High-performing negotiators know that to be truly effective, they must take the time to explore all three areas before recommending a solution. 

As a result of pressure from KPIs, procurement professionals’ and professional buyers’ needs often fall into key areas:

  • Delivery assurance and supply security
  • Highest quality levels
  • Risk mitigation
  • Lower transaction costs yielding decreased total cost of ownership
  • Achievement of sustainability targets
  • Innovative ideas for process and product improvement
  • Annual cost savings as measured by the yearly percentage of spend

Ask the right questions

Effective questioning uncovers a depth and breadth of needs, especially undiscovered and underappreciated needs, at the same time as broadening the buying criteria and involving the entire buying team in a more engaging, provocative dialogue that reinforces your value as an ongoing partner for innovation and growth.

The problem is that typical questions don’t stand out, and the quality of the questions suggest, to the procurement officer, the standard of the solution or service the sales team is trying to sell. Standard questions may serve the sales person well but are of no use to the buyer.

Tweaking the planned dialogue to include questions that dive deeper into the buyer’s needs enlightens both sides of the conversation. Well-considered questions can help procurement identify needs either they didn’t know they had or solutions they didn’t know the sales team could offer.

When planning dialogue, consider incorporating questions that naturally

  • quantify or confirm what the customer is trying to achieve
  • use market data and leading research to give procurement a reality check
  • explore worst-case scenarios
  • encourage the buyer to explore a hierarchy of value to determine the best ROI best-value decisions
  • consider what ideal future results look like to pinpoint the right decisions in the present

Combined with sharing industry developments and clear, innovative ideas, carefully composed questions help the buyer feel they learned a lot from a meeting and create the impression that the sales person understands the buyer, the company and its needs.

Subscribe to updates

Subscribe to updates

By entering your information below, you are subscribing to our insights newsletter. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!