Identifying customer needs: what it is, how to identify, examples of questions

People buy goods and services if they see the benefit of the purchase. No one will agree to just give away money. Even emotional purchases are made when it seems that this particular product will please or come in handy.

To understand what customers want, you need to identify needs. On the basis of this knowledge, to promote the brand, build a sales strategy and advertising campaigns.

In this article we will show by examples what the customer needs are, how to find them in offline and online sales, we will get acquainted with the methods of evaluation of customer satisfaction.

What are the needs of customers and why to identify them

Psychologists define need as a state of insufficiency of things or emotions that causes discomfort and prompts action. A popular model of the development of human needs was proposed by A. Maslow. At the bottom are the basic physical needs: food, sleep, and water. At the top is the need for self-expression.

In marketing, a customer need is a problem that can be solved with a product or service. In order to sell, two factors must coincide: the customer has a pain and your product closes this pain better than competitors. Competent identification of customer needs is the basis for the commercial success of the company.

Identification of needs allows:

  • Present the product correctly. Different product properties are important to each client. Someone needs a tracksuit to be comfortable, someone looks at brands.
  • Closing objections. The salesperson formulates answers based on the customer’s needs. “Expensive!” – “Yes, this product is more expensive than others, but it has the right option, you don’t have to buy extra equipment.”
  • Taking care of customers. Service that meets needs increases LTV and audience loyalty.

What are customer needs – the main types

In marketing, needs are classified in terms of sales. Evaluate how badly the customer needs a product or service, what is the motivation for the decision to buy. The task of the seller in any case, turn the need into a purchase.

Product needs: the need for a product. Here everything is simple: people buy food, clothes, cars, books.

Service: the need for a service or service incidental to the goods. Customers use the Internet, order a cab, take pets to the groomer – all this need for a service as such. Ancillary service needs are, for example, ordering delivery when buying a refrigerator or assembling furniture.

Explicit: the customer knows what he needs. The need is formed and realized by the person. First-grade parents know they need to buy a backpack and stationery.

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Hidden: the customer has a problem that he either does not realize or does not know how to solve. For example, a person has started running in the morning and doesn’t understand why his feet hurt after exercise. There is a hidden need: comfortable running shoes.

Rational: the needs of the first two steps of Maslow’s pyramid – physiological and safety. Food delivery is ordered to satisfy hunger. You put an alarm system in your apartment to protect yourself and your property from burglars.

Emotional: not directly related to physical survival. This category includes a demonstration of status, the need for respect, the desire to stand out and show individuality. For example, jewelry: it is quite possible to live without it, but buying it satisfies many emotional needs.

Conjugated: the purchase of one product or service stimulates the following, forming a chain. A prime example is a hobby. When a person is passionate about something, he constantly buys goods of a certain category, because the needs “cling” to one another.

Unconjugated: the need is satisfied by one purchase, the chain does not form. Example: a cup of coffee at the airport.

Of course, more often than not, the buyer has several needs at the same time. Coats are bought to keep warm in the fall (rational) and to impress others (emotional). The task of the seller – to identify the needs and convince the target audience that his product is the best.

How to Identify Needs – Techniques

Classic sales textbooks say that the right questions and active listening are the most effective ways to identify needs. We will not argue with the experts. Only stipulate that this is more relevant to personal sales. That is the situation when the seller and the buyer meet in the sales room or talk on the phone. Online commerce has its own set of tools.

How to ask questions in order to determine the needs, we will talk in the next section. Here we will consider methods from the sphere of digital.

Statistics of inquiries. The services Vordstat and Google Trends collect information about what products and services users are looking for, how they formulate queries. From this data they draw conclusions about what needs, pains and problems the CA have. The information obtained helps to adjust the assortment, to set up advertising campaigns correctly.

Analysis of user behavior. By analyzing reports from Yandex.Metrika and Google Analytics you can find out which pages of what products users visit most often, which sections of the site are interested in. This data is then correlated with sales statistics. If customers are actively searching for a product but don’t buy it, you need to change your pricing or service.

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Reviews and comments. Any source will do: social networks of the brand, specialized sites with reviews, comments on products on marketplace or reviews on YouTube. Negative reactions are especially valuable: they allow you to spot problems in time and correct errors in your work.

Market research. An expensive and labor-intensive method that not all companies can afford. However, if investors are planning to invest much money in the project, it makes sense to spend money on preliminary studies, so as not to lose more in case of failure.

Methods can and should be combined to get a complete picture. Especially since Yandex and Google analytics services are free.

Needs identification questions – examples

In sales, they say that the one who asks the questions controls the dialogue. Consider what questions to ask the customer to identify needs.

Open-ended: begin with “where,” “when,” “what,” “for what,” and “why” and involve a detailed answer. Salespeople ask these questions to understand the customer’s motivation and to determine what type of need applies. They are especially used at the beginning of the conversation. Here it is important to let the customer think and speak, not to rush through the presentation.

Examples of open questions:

  • What service do you have connected now?
  • What do you plan to use the food processor for?
  • In what room should you put the laminate flooring?


Closed: these questions can only be answered with a yes or no answer. Needs these questions reveal poorly, but are appropriate for confirming assumptions and gaining agreement.

Examples of closed questions:

  • Have you worked with us before?
  • Are you looking for video surveillance for your office?
  • Will you take it?


Alternative: The client is offered two answers in the question itself. Timely asked alternative question helps the salesperson to understand if he correctly identified the pain, whether the dialogue is moving towards the sale. If the customer rejects both options, it means the need is not identified, the salesperson is offering products that are of no value to the customer.

Examples of alternative questions:

  • Are you interested in Chinese or American equipment?
  • Is Friday or Sunday delivery more convenient?
  • Match your pants with a shirt or belt?
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Clarifying questions: Hold the dialogue in the right direction and make the salesperson understand that he correctly understands the customer. Formulated as follows, for example: “I understand correctly that”, “let’s clarify”, “let’s go over the main points”.

Examples of clarifying questions:

  • Do I understand correctly that the presence of this feature is not crucial?
  • Please clarify what is more important to you – time or price?
  • Let’s be clear, do you need a budget model with a laconic design?


This is a classic typology of questions. There are other methods.

Track customer satisfaction

Attracting new customers is more expensive than retaining existing ones. That’s why it’s important to know how satisfied customers are with a product or service. A loyal or at least satisfied customer not only becomes a regular customer but also recommends the product to others.

You can track the satisfaction of needs with the help of internal and external indicators.

Internal indicators are the share of loyal customers, percentage of repeat sales, duration of cooperation, expansion of individual product matrix. High level and constant growth of these indicators indirectly indicates satisfaction of customer needs. Such data cannot be considered completely objective, because consumers may simply have no alternative.

External indicators are the results of post-sales customer surveys. There are several methods of questioning.

  • NPS: Customer Loyalty Index. Consumers rate on a 10-point scale whether they are willing to recommend a product.
  • CES: effort index. Customers rate from 1 to 7 how difficult it was to complete a targeted action: buy, place an order, find out information.
  • CSAT: satisfaction index. Customers rate on a 5-point scale how satisfied they are with the company.
  • CSI: A kind of satisfaction index. These questionnaires have several questions and consumers should not evaluate the company’s performance in general, but the specific parameters of the service or product.



When to conduct surveys depends on the business field. It is better to assess the satisfaction with banking services right away. It will be possible to get objective feedback on the repair of the apartment in a few months.


Customer need is the problem that the product or service solves. To sell, you need to know consumers’ pains and explain how the product will close those pains.

Salespeople identify needs with the right questions for the customer. Marketers use e-analytics services and feedback on various platforms. Post-sales questionnaires help assess the satisfaction of the CA’s needs.

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