Everybody knows that selling entails meeting your customers' needs. However, it's a huge mistake to assume that the most important needs are those that show up on a RFP or in a business discussion.

According to research conducted by the Chally Group (I'm writing a book with their CEO, BTW), customers have six needs that are rarely expressed outright, but which are the true foundation of a customer relationship:

1. "I need you to be accountable."

Customers hate "hit and run" sales. If they're working with you, they don't want you to pass the buck to "sales support" or anyone else if something goes sour.

2. "I need you to come prepared."

Customers hate being interrogated. Never expect your customers to answer questions about anything that you could have researched yourself.

3. "I need you to be on MY side."

Customers risk their careers and companies by doing business with you. They expect you to represent THEIR interests and not just your own or your firm's.

4. "I need you to make things simple."

Customers, like everyone else, live in a constant state of information overload. They don't want more data, they want you to make sense of the data they've got.

5. "I need you to be accessible."

Customers want you to get back to them immediately if they call with a problem or question. If you don't, you're telling them they aren't important to you.

6. "I  need you to be an outsider."

If customers could solve their problems themselves, they would. They're hiring you and your firm because an outside perspective brings new creativity to old problems.

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