Use of email to aid in the needs discovery process

It wasn’t that long ago that almost 100% sales were face-to-face or over the phone. For most salespeople, the meat of the sales process was in face-to-face, live discussions – though some of the meetings were screen sharing and mostly email between communications.

In 2020, the restrictions on travel and face-to-face meetings resulted in the switch to pure virtual sales.

But the change hasn’t changed the basics of needs assessment. In some ways, needs assessment has become more difficult, but the move to virtual selling actually gives organized sellers a greater advantage.

The advantage for salespeople in a virtual world

In our recent study of virtual sales, 71% of shoppers said that a seller’s ability to conduct thorough discovery of concerns, wants, and needs in their virtual interactions has a high impact on purchasing decisions. But only 26% believe salespeople are doing this effectively. This is a great opportunity for nearly three-quarters of the salespeople. Switching to virtual can differentiate those who are prepared, knowledgeable, and thorough.

Virtual selling doesn’t just mean adding videos to meetings, as virtual selling dramatically changes the dynamics of how buyers interact and engage with sellers.

A buyer recently said, “One of the things I hate to see is when I meet with a seller after we had their first qualifying meeting that I had to put up with and they ask me a number of questions I have could have responded more accurately, thoroughly, and quickly via email or a standard survey. “

If you know you need answers to background questions and you need to identify preferences, wants, and needs, it is best to email ahead of time. Here’s what happens when you do this:

  • You will get more answers than you could collect in one call. When you actually have the call, the live meeting time can be more fruitful.
  • The sales cycle can be shortened as you need fewer follow-up meetings. You received your responses before meetings.
  • Buyers respond via survey or email. If they prefer, they sometimes have discussions via email, which makes the process even faster.
  • Buyers say, “I don’t have time to answer these questions right now, but thank you for submitting them. Let’s cover them in the meeting.” But they often still read the questions and think about what makes the actual meeting more productive.

In other words, you can get the sales process moving faster, get more and better information, and impress buyers.

To the extent that you can customize your questions for that particular buyer, you will build trust and help other buyers see that you stand out from the rest. Prepare the buyer and only send questions when rapport and trust have been established.

Example of a needs assessment email

Think of the following example as an email you might send once you know your buyer and initial discovery has taken place.


I look forward to our meeting on the 17th. I know you would like to find out what to do here. To aid in the process I wanted to send some background questions that we need to answer in order to find the right solution for you and to come up with a proposal in due course. If you or someone on your team can take a dip in these, that would be great.

  1. Over the past six months I’ve spoken to a number of people who said that Competitor X is about twice as fast as you in {{area}}. What do you think about going faster to catch them and how could you do that?
  2. In our experience, there are three factors that have an impact on operational efficiency that make a huge difference in X: Factors A, B, and C. Do you think you need to work in these areas? If so, what and how?
  3. I heard you tried to make progress in {{area}} in the past, but efforts stalled. Why would you say they stalled?
  4. Let’s say you successfully achieve {{target}} in three months. How will that affect the business?
  5. If there were three topics {{this area}} focused on, what would they be and why?

Of course, there is more that we can and will cover, but to the extent that we can work through this list, we will likely have a sense of whether we can help, how best to move forward, and how to ensure we get the result you are looking for.

If you can, please answer these questions by email. Of course, we can always discuss your answers at the meeting if you prefer. But these questions give you an idea of ​​what I hope to cover.

Did I hit the mark? What changes would you suggest?

I look forward to your thoughts and the call.


You can also send a shorter email and link the buyer to a survey with questions.

By using email to aid your needs assessment process, you can have more productive sales meetings, close sales faster, and impress buyers.

Use the virtual world to your advantage and try this approach for an upcoming sales discussion.

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