It is very easy to SAY one must identify the needs of a customer, but it is rather more difficult to do, because whilst attempting to identify a need, one should simultaneously develop the proposition that would meet that need. (Retailers who sell fast food, are unlikely to benefit from or be able to respond to customers need to be clothed and protected.)
We advocate a 3-step process:
1. Diagnose the >>PAIN
2. Differentiate the >>CLAIM
3. Demonstrate the >>GAIN
The full process is beyond our scope, but we definitely need to master Step 1; since this is the essence of the strategic marketing (and retailing) response.
The ‘pain’ a customer experiences is a smart way of looking to identify a need. The pain immediately suggests a possible solution (your proposition) and it is also a useful reminder that people are more strongly influenced in their decision-making by ‘pain avoidance’ than they are by achieving or receiving some ‘pleasurable’ benefit.
How to diagnose the pain?
a. Ask the right questions:
i. The source (of the pain)?
ii. The intensity?
iii. The urgency?
b. Active listening
And finally, and most importantly, ask whether the prospect/ customer has actually recognised that particular pain? If not, it is a very hard sell.
 Adapted from Neuromarketing by Renvoise and Morin, 2007