Evaluating your prospects and their needs

Before any sale, you have to evaluate the needs of your future customers or run the risk of not properly meeting their requirements. Prospects may often not know what they want, but know exactly what they do not!

You therefore have to start with a diagnosis of your prospect, or potential buyer. Then comes the stage of defining your strategy and selecting your sales pitch. The approach will be different for each customer.

All prospects are not the same

“During the initial contact, you have to quickly identify the gatekeepers, or people who participate in the sales decision,” explains Roger St-Hilaire, expert sales trainer. “They don’t all have the same point of view and expectations. The approach, for example, will be different depending on whether they’re out in the field or in the office. The key is to adapt to the particularities of each.”

People evaluate a product differently in accordance with their expectations and personality. Some will look at price, others at design, content or service. Identifying the profile of prospects (e.g. age, status, buying history) is therefore essential to accurately pinpoint their needs.

A few questions to know your customers better

The following are examples of questions to ask yourself to define your prospects’ requests:


  • Who are the various stakeholders involved: people who buy, influence, accompany, negotiate, install, etc.?
  • What are their expectations?


  • What are the specific features sought?
  • Are they looking for top-of-the-line, mid-range or low-end?
  • Do they want an exclusive?


  • Where does(do) the decision-maker(s) live? Procedures will not be the same in Ontario and Quebec.
  • Where are their competitors located? Are they local or regional? Do they have alliances?


  • When is the best time to meet with them? 70% of sales are made in the morning.
  • Since when have they had this need?
  • How long has the purchasing process been under way?
  • What is their time frame? Be aware that the more time they have, the better they can shop around.


  • In what form do they want the product?
  • How would they like to pay for their purchase? What billing should be used?


  • How much are they currently paying?
  • What is their financial capacity?
  • What is their current business volume?
  • How many employees do they have?


  • What is the reason for this need? What happened to convince them to make this purchase?
  • How did they hear about you? Were they referred to you? “If it’s a referral or a tip, 85% of the sale is in the bag,” says Roger St-Hilaire.
  • Is this a replacement or a first purchase? If customers have purchased a similar product in the past, they will be in a better position to know what they want.
  • What are their constraints for this purchase? This will also allow you to attempt to deduce the prospect’s fears.
  • Is it for resale purposes?

The key to success

There is no magic formula in sales. Having the manual down pat is not enough, because personality plays a big role. Sales techniques provide a structured method of working, but being natural is the key to closing a sale.

Other advice about sales jobs


Jobs.ca network