The words "wants" and "needs" are often used interchangeably. And in selling, prospects talk about wants, while their needs have to be uncovered. It isn't uncommon for customers to say, "I just want a price" or to imply that they're "getting several prices." Immediate pricing is a want, yet may be interpreted as a need by both buyer and seller.

Real Needs

What the prospect actually needs is in-depth information to make a decision. So how can the presentation be couched in language that responds to that prospect's needs?

Both parties tend to load their language with phrases, implications, and statements that are self-serving. Why? Buyers may be intent on protecting themselves against practices they believe will induce them to make unwise decisions. Sellers are trying to ensure that their product is the one of choice amongst several options. (One of those options, of course, is taking no action at all.)


When prospects say, "make this brief" they imply they don't want a long-winded explanation. However, they do need complete information to make an "informed decision." When prospects say this, it often causes salespeople to either shorten an otherwise information-laden sales message or to inject anecdotes, the intent of which is to build rapport and confidence but which most frequently has the opposite effect.

The prospect may say things like, "We're not going to live here that long, so we don't need the highest quality." But the fact is that middle-class people or those without abundant wealth do need exceptional quality to avoid excessive maintenance or early replacement. Again, a want expressed as a need.

Needs assessment is established with an efficient "walk around" in the area of the project. Asking questions that lead to understanding the prospect's values creates the ability to gain insight into the prospect's needs.

?Dave Yoho is president of the oldest and largest consulting company representing small business and specializing in the home improvement industry ( His newest album is The Science of Successful In-Home Selling.