The Difference Between Customer Needs and Wants

The Difference Between Customer Needs and WantsUnderstanding the difference between a customer’s wants and needs is a major key to succeeding in a retail merchandising business. Often what a customer wants is diametrically opposed to what they need. As a businessperson, your job is to give the customer what they want. Helping them to understand what they need is also important. However, it’s not your responsibility to convince customers to get what they need. Businesses make money by satisfying their customers. Often it’s easier to sell them what they want than what the need. So that’s where businesspeople should primarily focus their energy.

Buying versus Selling

Most people prefer to buy something rather than have it sold to them. There is a subtle yet significant difference between the two. When people decide for themselves what they want and go out and get it, they feel like they have bought it. On the other hand, if a salesperson convinces them to purchase something, even if they need it, the customer may feel that it was sold to them. It often makes them feel like the businessperson has seized the power in the relationship. If you want customers to feel good about the relationship and are interested in customer retention, you have to give them what they want.

What About Their Needs

Sometimes what a customer wants is not what they need. As a caring human being you may feel it’s your responsibility to tell them as much. In that case the best you can do is share the information you think they need to know but allow them to make what they feel is the right decision without feeling pressured. Sometimes the customer will agree with you, change their purchase, and thank you for your help. Other times they may completely disregard what you say and still pursue what they want over what you know they need. Still, if you want to stay in business you should be willing to sell them what they want without making them feel bad about it.

Needs versus Wants

In sales, a need is something that solves a real or imagined problem. A want, on the other hand, is simply something that would be nice to have. Often customers have no idea what they need, they simply know what they want. When you give them what they want, in the long run this enables you to build a lucrative ongoing relationship with them. One in which they feel they’re in control.

Wants are More Powerful

What the customer wants is often more of a powerful motivator than what they need. This becomes clear when you listen to your customer and ask them to tell you why they want what they want. Usually they have a burning desire to get what they want and simply what you to show them how they can get it. Customers tend to get more value, joy, and satisfaction from purchasing what they want versus what they need. Successful businesspeople understand this and know how to use it to their advantage.

What This All Means

Businesspeople make their living satisfying consumers’ wants and needs. It becomes clear very early in their careers that the average person is usually willing to spend more on want they want than what they need. For example, if a homeowner needs a new roof, they often look for the least expensive one that meets their needs. However, if they simply see a particular type of roof they want, whether they need it or not, they are usually willing to pay whatever it costs to get it. The purchase makes them feel good so price is not a barrier, as long as they can afford it, they’re getting it.

Understanding what your customer wants and giving it to them at a price they can afford has made countless businesspeople successful. Plus it’s a lot easier to sell people what they want than what they need. You may train your salespeople to keep this in mind and have them learn more about sales through companies like Challenger.

About the author: Cameron Johnson is a business consultant and entrepreneur. Over the course of his career he has conducted case studies on both social media optimization and non-profit marketing. Cameron has also had the opportunity to speak at international business conferences and was recently recognized as one of the world’s top 100 advertising experts to follow on social media.

Also published on Medium.