In sales, no matter the industry, you are taught that the key to an effective sales presentation is to identify what the customer “wants” and what they “need.” What’s the difference between these two? A “want” is a nice to have. This often fulfills an emotional desire and may be short-lived in satisfying the customer. A “need” is a must have, the more practical and often times the better choice for long-term satisfaction in a buying decision.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” — Henry Ford

As the expert, it’s your job to educate the customer and show them what will best fit their needs. This is achieved by asking questions, drilling down and discovering what pain point they want to go away, and then showing them the best possible solutions based on your expertise. Some of these solutions may be something the customer was not even thinking about or didn’t know existed.

By simply asking what the customer wants and giving it to them, you are not positioning yourself as an expert in your industry, you’re acting as an order taker and as such, you are demonstrating that you know little more than the customer when it comes to your industry. By sharing your expertise and educating them about the best decision for their need, you are adding value to your customer’s experience and to your reputation in the industry.

It’s smart to slow down and get to know your customer’s thoughts – work with the information they have gathered. This sincere interest in their opinion will help you to ask the right questions and provide them with the best choice solution that will satisfy their “need. ” In the long run, by helping the customer understand what they really need, not necessarily what they want, you will not only earn yourself a loyal customer but will gain the respect as the trusted expert in your industry.