The Needs Analysis Process
by Greg Surtman
Early on in my career I felt that a one hour meeting with a decision maker that led to a quick proposal was a good way to accelerate the sales process. Being around professionals with backgrounds in organizational development and industrial organizational psychology inspired me rethink this process. I have learned over the years that much more data needs to be collected in order to design and develop the right solution for the client. Assuming that we are meeting with large organizations and discussing their high priority business issues, I now go into this mode after that initial one hour meeting…
Who are the other Stakeholders I should engage?
We want to meet several folks being impacted by the issue and solution. In most cases, I wanted to meet with leaders, direct reports, and the learners themselves. This would enable me to gain different perspectives about what is really happening at the organization and what may be helpful to include in a learning experience. It also gives us an opportunity to gain “buy in” for the solution because we are allowing more stakeholders to be heard.
How will I collect data from these Stakeholders?
Different methods of data collection will work better for different stakeholders, so it is important that we have a few options up our sleeve. Surveys are a nice way to collect facts from a large population. Surveys should include no more than 12 questions and should only take a few minutes to complete.
Focus groups of 6-12 participants work well when gathering data from the learner population and their direct reports. It is nice to have two people conduct a focus group, so that one person can ask the questions while the other is documenting the feedback. Interviews allow us to connect with other leaders in a one on one setting . I (the sales guy) always volunteered to conduct leader interviews because it was an opportunity for me to meet a different leader and uncover a different issue the organization may be facing.
What should we ask these Stakeholders?
In general, we want to gain different perspectives about the business issue. A simple question like, “tell me about the issue and how it impacts you?” will usually get them talking. It is also important to ask what they would like to see in a learning experience and what barriers at the organization may prevent success.
All of this data will tell us a story about what is really happening at the organization and what we can do to make a difference. Presenting this story back to the decision maker, along with the solution, will compel them to take action.
This process is not perfect. Early on in a business relationship, the decision maker may be reluctant to open up their organization to this process. That being said, it is our job to push for it. Articulating your intent (to present them with a solution that addresses their issue and/or achieves their desired result) will usually get them to open up a bit. Once you’ve demonstrated how critical this process is, your decision maker will come to appreciate the value you provided and will open up their organization even more the next time. After you’ve addressed a handful of their business issues with this approach, they will consider you a “strategic partner”, which is where we want to be.
Happy Selling, my friends…