Questions to Identify Customer Needs


Sales success depends on a clear understanding of customer needs. Understanding customer needs is the first step in building a relationship with a potential customer. This can be achieved through asking the right questions. Therefore, questions to Identify customer needs are a vital part of the opening of your sales calls.

My Issues 

Unlike many sales trainers I have a problem with the word “needs”.

Two issues actually.

Firstly, there are many things that I “need” but probably have no motivation to actually do.

A story to illustrate.

Many years ago on my first business trip to Japan I ran across a product that made it impossible for a person to drink alcohol. If you took this mediation you immediately felt sick if you drank any alcohol. 

When I returned to Australia I discussed with my boss the possibility of importing this product.

I said, “there is a need for this product in Australia”

My boss replied, “Yes, there is a need but is there a market for it”

And that is the difference between "needs" and "wants"

Secondly, if you get a prospect to tell you what they “need” it can lock them into a rigid perspective. Needs are not open to any negotiation. You need air, water and food. You don't NEED lasagne or a Big Mac.

I much prefer to ask about a prospect’s “wants”

I go into my reasons for this distinction in more detail in my article "sales needs versus wants".

Notwithstanding that issue I’m sure you realise the importance of uncovering your prospect’s desires.

As Albert Einstein said,
“If I had an hour to save the world, I’d spend 59 minutes defining the problem, and one minute coming up with the solution”.

“If you fail to understand your customer’s desires and provide solutions to the problems they are trying to solve, then you will have extreme difficulty selling them on your products or services. Knowing as much as possible about your customers is a vital part of the sales process.”

The other piece of information I’d like to suggest is that you make sure you use targeted questions.

What you Need to Know

Things you need to know:

  • What is their current situation?
  • What are their pain points? 
  • What are their goals? 
  • How does their business operate?
  • What are their budget constraints? 
  • What is their decision-making processes?
  • What are their expectations?
  • What are your competitors doing? 
  • What are their long-term goals?

Some Questions to Identify Customer Needs

I ran across a post from SalesForceSearch that listed “10 Sales Questions to Quickly Identify Your Customer’s Needs

Some of those questions included:
2. How open is your company to change?
3. What is the biggest barrier preventing you from meeting your goals?
5. What are your short term and long term goals?
7. Which vendors are you currently working with? How satisfied are you with their service?
8. How can we better serve your needs?

Even More Examples

Another post on HubSpot lists "41 Sales Questions to Ask a Customer to Determine Their Needs".

When you list them out like that it seems like a lot.
Good luck if you are trying to memorise them all.

Some of the questions include:

4.”What are your desired outcomes?"
5.”How do your team objectives play into your department's strategy?"
6. ”What do you perceive as your greatest strength? Weakness?"
7. ”How does your company evaluate the potential of new products or services?"
13.”What do you look for in the companies you do business with?"
14. ”What might cause you to change suppliers?"
22. "What do you look for in your relationship with a supplier?"

There are even questions on the page you should ask existing clients about your product or service.

I quite liked a question towards the end of the article..

"If timeline or budget were not constraints, what would your ideal solution look like?"

A Questioning Process

I ran across another post at BMS Performance and you can access the full article with further explanation and examples by going to "6 QUESTIONS TO UNCOVER YOUR CUSTOMERS TOP NEEDS"

In that article they introduce their “DRIIIL Questioning Process”

I think it looks a lot like the SPIN Selling model.


  • Direction … set the direction of the meeting … “What’s the most important thing you want to achieve today?”
  • Reality … explore their current situation … ““Tell me about your situation in regard to…”
  • Issue … drill down into the issue … “Tell me more about that…”
  • Impact … find the impact … “How does that affect your business?”
  • Imagine … Get the customer to paint a picture of the solution … “What does a good solution look like?”
  • Lead … How can I help … 


There is no doubt you'll be more successful selling if you use questions to uncover your prospect's "wants" and desires.

I do suggest you avoid asking for their "needs" and that you also ask "targeted questions"