Want and Need, What is the Difference?

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want and need difference

Want and Need, What is the Difference?

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Is the difference between want and need just semantics? It could be, but if you are in consultative sales understanding the difference may be critical. If you are setting the bar for customer service excellence it has never been more important.

What is the difference?

I want it with four-wheel drive.

I want the biggest engine.

It is common for customers to present with what they want, but do they always know what they need? The basics of delivering exceptional customer service mean that the customer is highly satisfied and hopefully delighted with their transaction. The customer decides, not the vendor.

When the vendor gives the customer what they want, is it the same as what they need? The safe answer of course is, “sometimes.”

Transactional vs. Consultative

The sales exchange at the drive through window of a fast food restaurant most often is not consultative sales.

I want the #1 with a Diet Soda.

I’ll have the big box, hold the guacamole.

Give me the two for $5.

It is a transactional sale and while want and need may still be important, it isn’t nearly as critical. Sometimes it isn’t even our business to know. Suggesting the healthier choice (in your opinion) may seem valid, but it also may not be your business.

Consultative Sales

The other side of sometimes is that sometimes it isn’t. The highest level of customer satisfaction is long-term satisfaction. The customer should understand that what they want is appropriate for their needs.

A commercial grade tool may not be required for the average homeowner. Likewise, a seven-passenger vehicle with a DVD entertainment system may not be what an 80-year-old needs to pick up groceries, even though it is on the lot at a great price and they can pay with cash.

The sales process at a car dealership, with a realtor, or in many business-to-business transactions is often consultative sales. The size, the intended use, product life, and many other variables will condition long-term satisfaction.

Want and Need

Is this all a no-brainer? Perhaps, but the words we chose often have a psychological impact. Our mind-set is important to deliver exceptional levels of satisfaction. When we deliver what the customer wants, and it really isn’t what they need, we might have a problem.

Many people subconsciously search for effortless. They, by nature, like it easy. It might be easy to be an order taker. Closing the sale fast and without debate helps make the numbers, it could also result in a nice commission check, for now.

Businesses with high integrity and ethical standards who are watching lifetime value should know the difference between want and need.

You should too.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, #CustServ The Customer Service Culture, and Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

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