<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=577820730604200&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

The Other Side of Diagnosis: Four Problems That Destroy Your Needs Analysis

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
May 30, 2010

The ability to diagnose your dream client’s needs is a critical skill that is required to succeed in sales. But four common problems destroy the ability to conduct a good needs-analysis and prevent you from making a great diagnosis.

Here are the four common problems and some ways that you can avoid them.

Interpreting Their Experience Through Your Experience

The first way to ensure that you diagnose well is to stop diagnosing their problem based on how you have solved problems for other dream clients. This is not in any way to suggest that your experience isn’t important; it is critical.

The outcome of a needs-analysis is not to verify into which of your existing solutions you can cram your dream client. To diagnose well requires that you explore your dream client’s needs, their problems, their challenges, and their opportunities while suspending your judgment and your desire to prescribe your solution.

To diagnose well requires that you listen, and listening is not done well or effectively if you have already allowed your thoughts and your intentions to move on to determining the solution.

The outcome of a needs-analysis is the ability to diagnose, not to prescribe. Learn to suspend your desire to filter your dream client’s through your existing experiences. Later, when it is time to prescribe, you can rely on your relevant experiences. Your ability to be open to exploring new possibilities also opens up the possibility of new solutions that may create even greater value and differentiate you from your competitors.

Ignoring Your Dream Client’s Vision

Oftentimes, our inability to suspend filtering our dream client’s situations through the lens of our experience means ignoring their vision.

Sometimes we find our dream clients in situations where they lack the knowledge, the expertise, or the experience to know or understand how to improve their own outcomes. But it is equally as often that we find that our dream client’s have a vision as to what would be necessary to help them achieve better outcomes.

Your dream client may or may not have a vision. But a good needs-analysis will work to uncover their vision should they have one, and great questions can help to create a vision where none existed. Creating this vision together helps create the buy in that transforms your solution into our solution.

Make sure your needs-analysis questions elicit your dream client’s vision as to how they see their outcomes being improved.

Failing to Understand Constraints and Obstacles

Salespeople often approach a needs-analysis as a tool for understanding how they can obtain a commitment to buy. The commitment to buy is only half of the equation. The other half of the equation is how we can succeed in achieving and managing the outcomes that we sell and that we promise. This means delving into the issues that can derail your deal, causing you to lose the deal in the sales process or causing you to fail to execute well later.

A good needs-analysis and a good diagnosis depend on your ability to uncover and understand the constraints that will prevent a solution from achieving its intended goals. These might be financial constraints, they might be process constraints, or they may be external constraints.

There are also obstacles that must be overcome in order to develop, sell, implement, and execute your solution. These can be human obstacles, as well as cultural obstacles that will prevent your change effort to take hold and to succeed. Internal deals need to be negotiated, and the internal politics need to be understood and managed.

Understanding and accounting for these in your eventual solution create the confidence that the story you tell is no fairy tale.

Make certain your needs-analysis uncovers the ground truth, and that you fully understand what is necessary to succeed in achieving the outcomes that you sell.

Failing to Ask the Hard Questions

A great needs-analysis asks the hard questions. Salespeople often believe that these questions are too hard, or that they make them salesperson sound like a salesperson. However, these questions differentiate you from your competitors and help to provide proof that you have the necessary business acumen to solve your dream client’s problems.

A good needs-analysis will include questions as to the cost of not improving their performance, why the problem hasn’t been solved before now, who would be needed to ensure that any solution was both approved and that the result was achieved, and who might oppose any solution and why.

Those that find this line of questioning difficult lose deals—even when they have the best solution. Powerful questions define you as a professional salesperson.

Make a list of the most powerful and revealing questions that, if asked and answered, would give you an advantage in developing and selling your solution when the time comes. Then start asking the questions to determine which are most effective and which might be asked in a better way.


There is no substitute for a good needs-analysis and a great diagnosis of your dream client’s problems. But doing so requires that you suspend filtering their experience through your own, that you not ignore their vision, that you understand the constraints and obstacles, and that you ask the hard questions.


    1. Are your needs-analysis questions about understanding first, or are they about determining which solution you can fit your dream client into?
    1. Are you open enough to exploring possible solutions that you elicit your dream client’s vision?
    1. Do you ask about the constraints and obstacles to both a deal and to the later execution of your solution should you win the deal?
    1. Do you ask the hard questions that differentiate you and define you as a professional salesperson?
    1. How many of your needs-analysis questions would your dream client have already heard from your competitors?
  1. How does your ability to diagnose make you different than your competitors? How does it create value for your dream clients?

Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on May 30, 2010

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
Training Plus Events Bundle Learn More
salescall-planner-ebook-v3-1-cover (1)

Are You Ready To Solve Your Sales Challenges?


Hi, I’m Anthony. I help sales teams make the changes needed to create more opportunities & crush their sales targets. What we’re doing right now is working, even in this challenging economy. Would you like some help?

Solve for Sales

My Daily Blog Post Delivered to Your Inbox

Join 41,000+ sales professionals now and get my Guide to Becoming a Sales Hustler eBook FREE.