How to Conduct a Needs Assessment for Sales

Read our article to learn how to conduct a needs assessment on your leads using online questionnaires and discovery phone calls.

A needs assessment is a qualification tool sales and marketers use to assess a lead’s needs and see if they’re a good fit for a product or service. It can be done through a web form, an online questionnaire, or as part of a discovery call. The goal is to use it as part of a lead qualification framework that helps you nurture the most important prospects.

In this post, we’ll walk you through how to perform three types of needs assessments, each of which pushes the lead further through the stages of lead qualification:

Example needs assessment Needs Assessment
Example needs assessment

How a Needs Assessment Works

A needs assessment can be conducted online as well as in-person or over the phone.  Online needs assessments are typically conducted by marketers or sales reps and include web forms or questionnaires. Live needs assessments are usually conducted as part of a larger discovery call where a salesperson will verify things like budget, authority, need, and timeline.

It’s possible to use one or a combination of these needs assessment strategies to qualify a lead as a prospect for nurturing. For example, inbound leads can start with basic qualifications on a web form like “What do you need help with?” and end with a comprehensive call with a salesperson for a deeper needs assessment. 

The three types of needs assessment are as follows:

  • Web Form: This needs assessment qualifies a website visitor as a marketing qualified lead (MQL). These are the online “contact us” forms and quizzes that live on business’s website (usually a home page or services/product page). 
  • Online Questionnaire: This is the Google Forms or other quiz a sales rep sends directly to an over email to further qualify them as a sales accepted lead (SAL). This form asks more in-depth questions about their needs. 
  • Live Needs Assessment: A rep holds a discovery call with a lead and attempts to qualify them as a sales qualified lead (SQL) by asking questions about their needs and other key factors. If the lead passes, the rep begins nurturing them as a prospect.

For inbound leads, you might go through all three stages of the needs assessment framework. For example, an inbound lead may fill out a “contact us” form after visiting a website. From there, a sales rep might send the lead a more detailed questionnaire or Google form, scheduling a discovery call with an experienced seller if they meet a certain threshold. 

For outbound lead generation using direct outreach, you may only use a questionnaire and discovery call, or use the call itself a the sole needs assessment activity. Now that you have the big picture of each type of needs assessment, let’s go over the first type: the online web form.

How to Create a Needs Assessment Web Form

Your web form will exist as a “contact us” form, quiz, or other lead capture form on your website’s home page, services page, contact page, or landing page. It’s often the first place a lead will reach out to you directly for your product or services. These forms are meant to qualify visitors as marketing qualified leads (MQLs). 

To do so, ask for their contact information plus 1–3 basic needs assessment questions; having too many questions might scare them off. A needs assessment web form may ask for the following information: 

  • First and last name
  • Company name (if you sell a B2B product/service)
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Job title
  • What they need help with
  • Their main objectives
  • The main problem they want to solve
Web form needs assessment example Needs Assessment
Example web form needs assessment

Some companies include a slightly higher number (5–6) of needs assessment questions on the form to further qualify leads. These can be questions like “Which software are you currently using for {task}?” This provides more data to assess fit and allows leads to potentially skip over the second stage (the questionnaire) and go straight to a discovery call. Test this out if you’re spending too much time qualifying leads.

The process to set up a form depends on your website platform (e.g., WordPress). Your service likely offers a template form and directions on how to customize it. Choose the questions to include on the form, and select where it lives on the website — generally, this should be the page with the most traffic. For the concrete steps, read this article on how to put a form on your site.

After a lead submits a form, marketing assesses their level of qualification using a lead scoring point system. Or, a sales rep evaluates the answers on their own by making sure the specified need is something their business can satisfy, referencing their ideal customer profile (ICP). The rep might also manually research the lead to see how well their attributes, like job title or responsibilities, match their ICP.

If all checks out, the lead moves on to the next needs assessment type: an online questionnaire.

How to Create & Send an Online Questionnaire

The goal of sending an online questionnaire is to learn more about whether or not a lead is qualified enough for a more in-depth discovery phone call. You’re asking them questions, fielding answers, and evaluating these answers to see if the lead is a sales accepted lead (SAL). The questionnaire should include questions that help you uncover their needs.

Google Forms is one of the best tools to use to build an online questionnaire for your leads. To conduct a needs assessment with a Google Forms questionnaire, follow these steps:

  1. Decide Which Questions to Ask: Pick questions that give you insight into the lead’s level of qualification. 
  2. Create Your Questionnaire: Follow Google Forms’ instructions to build your questionnaire using the questions you’ve chosen. 
  3. Send the Questionnaire to the Lead: Email the questionnaire to the lead and tell them why you’re sending it. 
  4. Update the Lead’s Status and Establish Next Steps: Depending on the lead’s answers, mark them as unqualified or an SAL. If an SAL, schedule a discovery call.

Let’s take a look at each step in depth.

1. Decide Which Questions to Ask

Pick questions that relate to your product or service and the pain it solves. The optimal number of questions is 3–5, as this is small enough that it prevents your lead from tiring out before finishing the form. Here are some of the best questions to include on your questionnaire: 

  • Multiple Choice Questions: These question types are best for finding a specific product or service the lead is prioritizing in their search. 
    • Which of the following services are you most interested in?
    • Which problem are you experiencing most?
    • How many {position type} do you have on your team?
  • Multiple Answer Questions: These are best when you want to learn about the problems a lead is having or the benefits they want to see.
    • Select the pains you’re having from the list below.
    • Pick which KPIs you are focused on improving at the moment.
    • Select the administrative tasks you’d like automated.
    • Select your current job responsibilities.
  • Open-Ended Questions: These are best suited for gathering a large amount of information from a buyer. 
    • Please tell us a little bit about what you need help with.
    • What are you trying to achieve with {service type}?
    • Briefly describe what’s most important to your business at the moment.

These are some general questions. Of course, your questionnaire should be personalized to your specific lead type. A physical trainer will ask about a lead’s fitness goals and current physique, while a B2B cybersecurity tech brand might ask about their history of data breaches, their current vendor, and what they worry about most in the domain of cybersecurity.

Regardless of your industry, ask questions that help you see if the buyer’s needs match those of your ideal customers. This ensures you’re only allowing pipeline entrance to leads with high likelihoods to buy, thereby saving you time.

2. Create Your Questionnaire

A Google Forms questionnaire is a free, easy way to write a list of questions in a variety of question/answer types that an SAL can receive, answer in their email inbox, and submit. When you’re done, you can reuse this form for each SAL. Google Forms also collects and houses all the answers your leads have submitted, enabling you to run analyses on your leads.

To get started on creating your questionnaire, head to Google Forms and choose to create a blank form.

Google Forms Needs Assessment
Google Forms page

Once inside a form, begin by naming it something that will help you remember its purpose. But, also make sure the name is something that will make a good impression on the recipient. The name “{Your Company Name} Customer Questionnaire” is perfectly fine.

Then, it’s time to create your 3–5 questions. Include only one open-ended question, and make the rest multiple choice, multiple answer, or dropdown questions. This forces the lead to answer in terms you understand, and therefore helps you control the lead qualification process. Plus you can analyze the data. It’s also easy to fill out, so few leads should drop out of the form.

3. Send the Questionnaire to the Lead

Once you’ve written your questions, send the form to the lead’s email address. In Google Forms, the “send” button is in the top right corner of your questionnaire. The form will appear as an email in the recipient’s inbox, so give them context by adding your company name to the subject line and writing a short message telling them why you’re sending this questionnaire and what will happen after they fill it out. This increases the chances that the lead fills out the form.

Here’s an example of a subject line and message to include with the questionnaire:

Example sending questionnaire Needs Assessment
Example send questionnaire

Checking the “collect emails” box at the top will gather the submitter’s email address in your responses section of the Google Form, which can help organize the responses. Checking the “include form in email” box allows the recipient to fill out the questionnaire directly in the email.

4. Update the Lead’s Status & Establish Next Steps

Once the lead has returned the questionnaire, you can find their answers in the responses section of your Google Form. You’ll also get an email alert when they submit. Now, it’s time to evaluate their responses and put them up against your ICP. Does the lead look like a typical buyer? Do they have a need that you can solve? If so, qualify them to SAL status. If not, email them telling them politely that it’s not a fit, and discard the lead.

If the lead or their business shares attributes with your current clients, but they described a need that you cannot satisfy, put them back into the marketing team’s domain. They can then advertise and market to them, educating them about your product or service and the problem it’s actually meant to solve. Perhaps you can sell them down the line.

If the lead is qualified, send them another email, this time to tell them you’d like to host a meeting to learn more about them and their needs. This discovery call is the main type of live needs assessment, which we’ll cover next.

How to Conduct a Live Needs Assessment

To conduct a live needs assessment, schedule and run a discovery call in which you ask the lead a series of questions to assess their ability and desire to buy your solution. Around 25% of these questions will relate to their needs, serving as the needs assessment. The remaining time will be dedicated to learning if they have the budget and authority to buy and an appropriate expected timeline for implementation.

Sometimes, in larger, more hierarchical sales organizations, a sales team will have a sales rep conduct a needs assessment over the phone without holding a full discovery call. If the lead has needs the company can solve, the rep will then pass them along to a more experienced rep, who will conduct the more comprehensive discovery call.

We wrote an article on how to host a discovery call — give it a read to learn how to do the rest of the discovery, beyond the needs assessment. In this section, we’ll focus on the needs part of the call, which is often the most telling of a lead’s likelihood to buy. If someone desperately needs your help, they’ll try to find a way to make the purchase regardless of their finances, decision-making power, or timing preferences.

The five steps to conducting a live needs assessment are as follows: 

  1. Schedule a Discovery Call: Plan a time to talk with your lead and learn more about them and their business. Say you’d like to see whether your business is a good fit to help them. 
  2. Research the Lead: Read about the lead’s business, responsibilities, hobbies, interests, and more. This context will help you ask pointed questions and build rapport more easily. 
  3. Pick Questions to Uncover the Lead’s Needs: Write open-ended questions to motivate the lead to give an overview of their needs so you can better qualify them.
  4. Ask Your Questions: Ask your list of questions throughout the conversation, plus any unplanned questions prompted by their responses. 
  5. Label and Confirm the Lead’s Specific Needs: Once you think you understand their needs, repeat it back to them to confirm that your assessment is correct.

Let’s take a closer look at each step.

1. Schedule a Discovery Call

At this point, you’ve deemed a lead worthy of a discovery call. This often means an inbound lead has reached a certain lead scoring threshold from marketing, or they’ve filled out a web form or questionnaire that tells you they have needs you can satisfy. You’re now going to spend 20–60 minutes asking them questions that assess their level of fitness to buy.

Usually, reps use qualification frameworks to assess a lead’s fit. A common framework is called BANT, which requires sellers to learn about a lead’s budget, authority (decision-making power), needs, and preferred timeline. The N in the BANT framework is the needs assessment portion, where you ask questions about their needs to see if your product or service can meet them.

To schedule this discovery call, reach out to the lead and ask them if they’d be open to a call with you. Tell them that during the call, you’ll ask questions to see whether they’re a good fit for your product or service. Here’s an example of an email you might send to an MQL to plan the call: 

Hi {Name}, 

I noticed that you filled out the contact form on our website and expressed you needed help with your LLC taxes. Before we introduce you to any specific service, we’d like to learn more about your needs. That way, we can see if we’re a good fit to help you and, if so, recommend the best service for you.

Are you available for a 20-minute call where we’ll ask you some questions to learn more about your business and needs? Please pick a time in my Calendly link below.

Looking forward to speaking with you!

The lead should respond favorably to such a request since you’re showing them you’re dedicated to figuring out how to best serve them. If they put some time on your calendar, it’s time to start researching the lead before the call.

2. Research the Lead

Before deciding which questions to ask a lead in your live needs assessment, learn a bit about them. You can research them in one or all of the ways below:

  • Peruse Their Social Profiles and Websites: Find their interests, hobbies, job responsibilities, and day-to-day activity. 
  • Look Into Their Customer Journey: Figure out what marketing material they’ve consumed and how they’ve explored your website. This information can help you predict their potential needs and develop more personalized questions. 
  • Check the Forms They’ve Filled Out: If you conduct online needs assessments with web forms and questionnaires, look over the information your company has already collected. If leads complete these forms, they’ll expect you to check them before the call.

Besides qualifying a lead, another goal of a live needs assessment is to build rapport with the lead. Often, this is achieved by discussing matters relevant to the lead’s position, life, or desires.

3. Pick Questions to Uncover the Lead’s Needs

Before the call, write down 2–3 needs-related questions as a reference. On the same page, write 5–6 other qualification questions that specifically assess the other parts of the BANT lead qualification framework. If you’re doing an in-person needs assessment, such as with a lead who just walked into your store, have these questions memorized.

Here are some generic yet effective needs-related questions for a live needs assessment: 

  • What inspired you to reach out to us?
  • What can we help you with today?
  • What problems are you currently trying to solve?
  • Which goals are you trying to reach? 
  • What is your top priority right now?
  • What is the reason for your dissatisfaction with your current vendor?

Often, all you need are 2–3 pre-planned, open-ended questions to gather enough information from the lead about their needs to make a decision on their level of qualification. As they answer, listen and make a qualitative judgment on how well their answers line up with the needs your company solves. Ask follow-up questions to ensure you fully understand their needs.

Keep in mind that the number of pre-planned questions you need to ask to understand their need depends on the complexity of your solution and clients. A store clerk might just ask “What are you looking for?,” while a financial advisor who creates specialized investment portfolios for individuals with specific financial situations and goals might have to ask up to 10 questions to grasp whether they can meet the buyer’s needs.

4. Ask Your Questions

Ask questions and listen attentively to their responses. Never stop at your pre-planned questions — continue exploring their situation by asking scenario-reactive questions so they expand on their answers. The better you understand, the more likely you are to correctly qualify or disqualify them.

For example, look at this hypothetical exchange between a CRM software sales rep and a lead: 

Seller: What inspired you to reach out to us? (pre-planned question)
Lead: We need some help tracking our customer interactions.
Seller: And how are you currently handling this? (scenario-reactive)
Lead: We do it with pen and paper.
Seller: Alright, and how many customers do you currently have? (pre-planned question)
Lead: We have 100 but are growing.
Seller: Growing how fast? (scenario-reactive)
Lead: Well, we just started a new marketing strategy that’s doubling our lead generation every day. It’s hard to handle all of them.

Perhaps this buyer wanted to track leads but was unaware that the CRM could also automate some of their lead qualification actions and make their lead volume manageable. This is why it’s crucial to explore beyond your pre-planned questions. Now the seller has more ammo for their sales pitch, presentation, and proposal when the time comes. The more needs you can create in the buyer’s mind, the more likely you are to close the deal.

5. Label & Confirm the Lead’s Specific Needs

After you’ve done your exploring and have a solid understanding of what your lead needs help with, regurgitate their needs back to them in your own words. Labeling and restating the needs ensures that you are correct in your assessment and that you’ll give them the right solution, and it prevents you from assuming false needs and qualifying someone you can’t help.

To restate their needs, say, “It sounds like you need some help with {main problem or goal}. Did I get that right?” If the lead says no, don’t worry — this is common and easily resolved. Simply continue asking them more questions until you think you understand, then ask again. If they’re reasonable, they’ll appreciate your taking the time to listen and understand them. When they say “That’s right!,” it’s time to decide whether they’re qualified or disqualified.

If your product or service can meet the lead’s needs, they’re qualified on this front. Continue the discovery call and assess them on your other qualification criteria, like budget or authority to purchase. Or, schedule them time with the rep in charge of running longer discovery calls. If you disqualify them, end by saying you can’t help them, and try to recommend a different business.

3 Best Needs Assessment Examples

It can be helpful to look at the online methods other businesses have used to assess their potential buyer’s needs. Below, you’ll find a Google Forms questionnaire we created that would be emailed to an MQL, a B2B online web form that site visitors fill out, and a B2C online quiz that has been placed across various marketing channels to capture lead information while also assessing their needs. Let’s go through each example and why it works well.

Google Forms Questionnaire Needs Assessment

Here’s an example of a Google Forms online questionnaire that we created for a fictitious sales training company. It gets right to the point and only asks two questions of the lead: which service they want to learn about, and what they want out of the course. This should collect enough information to assess the lead’s needs and see if they’re a good enough fit for a more comprehensive discovery call.

Google Forms questionnaire example Needs Assessment
Example Google Forms online questionnaire

Online Web Form Needs Assessment

This is a B2B example of a needs assessment in the form of a “contact us” form on a tax preparation services company’s homepage. A form like this does two things. It captures lead information like email address, which the seller can use to contact the lead. Plus, it assesses their needs, which helps the seller determine the appropriate next steps.

If the lead checks any of the boxes regarding services offered, they’re qualified for a discovery call. The lead also might use the “How can we help?” section to elaborate on the need they selected, giving the seller even more information. If they write something in the section that doesn’t line up with the services the tax company provides, however, the sales rep or marketing staff will likely disqualify the lead and politely guide them in another direction. 

Needs assessment web form example Needs Assessment
Example needs assessment web form

Online Quiz Needs Assessment

This online quiz is an example of a B2C ecommerce needs assessment technique. It’s not so much to qualify for a discovery call. Instead, it’s to collect information about the lead and then recommend a product based on their gender, age, fitness goal, and training experience. This quiz can be found on Built With Science’s home page, as well as within the owner’s blog content.

Needs assessment quiz example Needs Assessment
Example needs assessment quiz

Bottom Line

A needs assessment is the systematic approach to learning the needs of a potential client. It’s a crucial part of the lead generation and nurturing stages. Not only does it help you qualify your leads, but it also provides you with key information about the lead’s goals, priorities, and pain points that you can use as selling points throughout the rest of the sales process. Try implementing all three stages to see how it affects your ability to properly qualify your leads.

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