What Does "Need Identification" Mean?

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  • Written By: Terry Masters
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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Need identification means working with a potential customer to pinpoint an impetus for making an immediate purchase. It is a part of a multi-step sales process that has been conceptualized by business analysts as the typical progression of a sale. Proper identification of need forms the basis of an effective sales pitch which gives the customer the solution to his problem.

The process of making a sale is typically broken up into prospecting for new customers, communication, need identification, making the sales pitch, problem solving, closing the deal, and follow-up. Need identification is the point where a prospective customer is determined to be a legitimate potential customer. Before that point in the process, the salesperson doesn’t know whether he has a ready, willing and able buyer on his hands or a window shopper.

A salesperson will conduct need identification in a way that is appropriate to the transaction at hand. In some instances, the process will first involve qualifying the customer and will use written forms and questionnaires to complete the process. Many sales transactions are informal, and a salesperson will have to rely upon the information that can be ascertained through a verbal investigation.


Theoretically, a salesperson that is adept at need identification will be able to tease out of the customer realized and unrealized needs. A customer who enters the sales cycle either wants an item but doesn't think he needs it, knows exactly what he needs, or knows he needs something but not sure what it is. In all three cases, the salesperson has a unique opportunity to educate the customer and define his needs, ultimately making the case for the customer to make a purchase immediately.

Need identification informs a successful sales pitch, and is the linchpin of the entire sales process. One of the fundamental problems addressed when studying the sales cycle is how to make the sale happen more quickly. Trying to sell a customer something he doesn’t actually need or cannot qualify for is a guaranteed way to waste time and to extend the sales process past the credit threshold. Someone might get credit for a sale based on a mismatched interaction, but it will not likely be the current salesperson.

A sales pitch based on proper need identification is focused and useful to the customer. It provides the right amount of information and education to allow the customer to determine value. The matching of needs to solutions creates a sense of urgency that drives the customer’s decision-making process. Ultimately, the correlation of need to pitch is the only reliable way to influence a sale.


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