Conducting a Customer Needs Assessment (C.N.A.)

As a seller, chances are that you’ve heard the acronym, C.N.A. It can stand for the Customer Needs Assessment or Conducting the Needs Assessment. It’s also known as the need’s analysis or the “tell me” interview. There are lots of catchy names… but the end game is the same.

Without a need, you can’t proceed. 

Okay… so let’s fast forward a bit. You have identified a prospective customer (congrats!). Your potential client has a great product, and it’s a perfect fit to your station’s demographic and psychographic profiles. More importantly, you have just set a face to face appointment with this new prospect to conduct a C.N.A. Well done! But now what?

The C.N.A. meeting is not about pitching packages and raving about rankers. In fact, this meeting is not about us at all. 100% of our focus should be on the potential customer and their dreams, their hopes, and their aspirations.

A successful C.N.A. involves:

  1. Thorough understanding of your prospect’s product capabilities.
  2. Thorough understanding of your station’s product capabilities.
  3. Look for the match.

The end game of the C.N.A. is to identify that one actionable need that we can help them with in their quest for success. Once again... without a need, you can’t proceed. In order to do this, you’ve got to do some homework.

Manager interviewing a male applicant in her office

The problem occurs when we sometimes come to that frightening realization that a substantial number of these business owners have no earthly idea what it is that they are trying to achieve (I mean no idea). That’s why you must craft initial questions to find their one actionable need.

You don’t want to begin with “Hi, I’m Bryan. So, how much money do you have?” To guide the line of questioning, I like to break the C.N.A. into a short 7-step process beginning with;

  1. Backstory: Have them tell you about their company. Their goals, their dreams. A lot of sellers spend far too much time here. Limit this section to 3 to 4 questions max. If you have done your homework, you should have a pretty good idea of the backstory.
  1. Obstacles & Challenges: What is keeping them from achieving their goals? Now we are getting into the heart of the C.N.A. This is where the needs are born. I would look at a selection of 5 questions from this category.
  1. Events and Conditions: What lead up to these challenges? A quick drill down to identify what was the root cause of their obstacles. No need to get bogged down here. Include one or two questions max.
  1. Importance: One question here. Of all of the challenges they defined, what do they feel is the most urgent? What demands immediate attention?
  1. What did I miss? This is where you “flip the script” and ask them to reverse the questioning… “What did I fail to ask?“
  1. What would they like to say? This is the one place in the C.N.A. that I refer to my audience size. Using a radio example here… “we reach 60,000 sets of ears in the marketplace each week. It’s our job to grab their attention. What would you like to tell my audience?”
  1. Framing: Repeat back their needs, in their order of importance. Confirm that you are on the same track. “Did I understand you correctly?” Then, further frame that one actionable need that you intend to address in your recommendation. Ask again. Are we on the same page? Is this your most pressing need?
  1. Solution: Finally, thank them for their time and set a date to return with the solution. Restate the purpose of that next meeting. You intend to introduce them to a marketing program that specifically addresses his or her needs. I suggest one week from the C.N.A. Make it a hard date… book it now!

  2. Post C.N.A. Strategy Meeting: You are the only one scheduled to attend. Once you walk out of your customer’s office, I want you to hop in your car, drive it around the block, park, and summarize the meeting. Re-read your meeting notes to finish partial thoughts, clean up sentences and fill in the blanks.

Congratulations! You are prepared for your face to face C.N.A. meeting. You’re going to be a little nervous. Shake it off, you’re going to be fine. You are the marketing specialist and you are here to help them grow. The C.N.A. process is by nature very non-confrontational. Remember, you are going to discuss the customer’s favorite topic… themselves!

Once you have been the perfect audience for their favorite topic, you will be ready to address that primary need, identify a solution and craft a proposal that communicates that solution. But we can’t solve all of your problems in one blog post. Log into your training account and watch our full length training video on the Customer Needs Assessment, or register for a free demo, here.  New Call-to-action

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