Sales Tactics – Requirements Gathering

May 18, 2009

At National Instruments, we teach a ‘needs satisfaction’ approach to selling where:

  • Selling – A process of uncovering, understanding, and satisfying customer needs.
  • Need – A customer want or desire that can be satisfied by your product or service

 So, selling is the process of revealing AND understanding customer wants, desires, and needs; then satisfying those needs with the features and benefits of your organization, products, or services.  Often, system integrators refer to this as requirements gathering. And, it’s arguably the single most important aspect to successful, profitable projects.

Establishing scope

Gathering requirements begins with understanding the scope or the ‘big picture’ for the project. Not only what really needs to be accomplished, but how will the project be viewed as successful? Just as important, you must ascertain the stakeholders who will ultimately be judging the success of the project. And, distinguish between the elements that are critical versus nice-to-have, or non-essential.

100_3106Until you understand the big picture, there is not much sense diving into the details. For instance, my wife and I like to take vacations, but would often end up frustrated until we understood our different ‘scope’ for our project. For me, a vacation is about doing stuff. For my wife, it is about not doing stuff. Once that became clear, we were able to establish requirements that fill both our needs.

Types of Requirements

During your sales engagement, you should have a checklist to ensure that you have gathered requirements for all aspects of the project. In addition to the basic capabilities and performance of the system, how will the customer interact with the system? What interfaces and data/results be required? Other requirements might include safety, reliability, security, and so on.

Ideally, for each requirement, you should assign specific attributes. Most importantly, how will you measure/assess the requirement and the acceptance criterion? Some folks also assess uniqueness, criticality, and relative priority of each requirement. And, some even establish the feasibility and risk of each requirement as well as record the source of the requirement in case there is trouble meeting it.