What are “Needs”, “Wants” and “Lacks” and Why are They Important?

NWL1.EngIt is common in many marketing, sales or training courses and in most businesses to hear people talking about how to meet the Needs and Wants of the customers / clients / learners. However, if we focus only on these two areas we are omitting one of the most important, and fundamental, elements of any communication: the Lacks.

We believe that any successful organization has to understand and deal with three different sets of  NEEDS WANTS and LACKS. These are:
– Of the organization.
– Of the employees.
– Of the actual / potential clients.

These three areas form part of what is known as the “Buying Process” which is subconsciously in all areas of interpersonal communication whether it be concepts or products. Any organization, product or service that can cover ALL three of these areas is able to provide satisfaction for the client which results in extra sales and loyal clients.

Examples of Needs, Wants & Lacks:

Needs for the Buyer:
The NEEDS part of the system refers to the basic, logical component of the “buying” process: be it a product, service, or idea. This area occupies approx. 30% of the reason for buying what is on offer. It consists of a simple, basic, possibly generic, description of the need identified by the person/organization:
– I need a shirt.
– I need a new car.
– I need to sell 5.000 units of the new product.

Notice that there are no specific details included in the NEEDS.

Wants for the Buyer:
The WANTS part of the system is where the required details emerge. This is the emotional element of the system and has a value of at least 35% in the “Buying Process”. The WANTS give much more information about what the client or individual seeks and defines more clearly what they are willing to pay for. The more of the WANTS that can be covered, the greater the possibility that the client will buy your product, service, or idea.

If we apply this to the first example above:
I NEED: a shirt.
I WANT: Light blue; Long sleeves; 100% cotton; 1 breast pocket; Buttons on the cuffs; O.K. with a tie; Made in Spain; Cheap; Famous brand; compatible with my favourite suit; My wife likes it; Not too outrageous, etc.

Note: all of these elements are emotional and most are very difficult to define or quantify logically. Obviously, some will be of more importance than others. However, If the product, service or idea can cover ALL, or most of, the WANTS mentioned above, there is a very high possibility that the person will buy it. If some elements are not covered, but they are of secondary importance, the purchase could still happen.

Lacks for the buyer.
The last element of the system is the area of LACKS. These account for the remaining 35% of the  reasons for “buying” the product or concept. This area can be composed of both logical and/or emotional. However, we have found that usually emotion is the strongest element. The LACKS ususally define why the person or organization is having problems covering their NEEDS / WANTS.

Using the examples given above, the LACKS would be as follows:
I NEED: a shirt.
I WANT: Light blue; Long sleeves; 100% cotton; 1 breast pocket; Buttons on the cuffs; O.K. with a tie; Made in Spain; Cheap; Famous brand; compatible with my favourite suit; My wife likes it; Not too outrageous, etc.
I LACK: Time to go to many different shops; a lot of money; “good” colour coordination; knowledge of my exact size; interest in buying clothes; Good taste in shirts, etc.

A business example would be the following:
I NEED to sell 5.000 units of the new product.
I WANT: People talking about the product; Perception of elite product; Publicity; Perception of value for money; Market leader; Head office happy.
I LACK; A big marketing budget; enough sales staff; time; knowledge of the competition; updated  Sales/marketing techniques; support from head office, etc.

One key point to bear in mind is that once one NEED is covered, all the other elements change. No one person or organization is capable of covering all our NEEDS, WANTS & LACKS at the same time. The intelligent communicator is one who covers the overlapping areas of one set of NEEDS, WANTS and LACKS today, another set the day after, and so on. Covering Needs, Wants & Lacks in this manner help to maintain customer loyalty through the conscious dynamic application of progressive and evolutionary skills and techniques. 

NWL3.EngIn Summary: 

At an organizational level, Needs, wants and lacks are should also be considered, and applied, for example:
Needs: Increase sales by 7% this year.
Wants: Keep share prices high: keep shareholders happy; No problems in the organization; staff happy; maintain productivity, etc.
Lacks: Funds for expansion;  liquidity; future contracts, etc.

At an employee level,  Needs, wants and lacks are also applied, for example:
Needs: My monthly salary.
Wants: Pay my mortgage; feed, clothe & educate my children; Job security;  interesting work;  appreciation from my boss; training, etc.
Lacks: information from the organization; feedback; support from the org, etc.

At the client (internal or external) level,  Needs, wants and lacks are also applied, for example:
Needs: what does the client really need: NOT what do I want to SELL them?
Wants: what does the client really want?
Lacks: what does the client really lack? What DON’T they know or have that would help them make the correct decision for THEM?

Note 1:

The “Needs” are a basic statement of the perception of the person at this time. The degree of negotiability depends on the context, situation and person. The “Wants” are normally a list of requirements to be satisfied in order for the person to choose a particular product or service. The more “Wants” that are covered by the product or service, the greater the possibility that they will choose that product. The “Wants” are normally listed from the most important (in decending order) to the least important. The “Lacks” are what the person does not know, have, etc., and if they are covered appropriately, change the perception of the person which may influence their “Needs” or “Wants”.

As one can see, both individuals & organizations have NEEDS, WANTS and LACKS: We believe that it is only by covering the Needs, Wants & Lacks of the client, whether it is an individual or an organization, that one can achieve one’s communication or business objectives.

All of our training & consultancy services are based on the real-world application of these areas in such away that our organization, our clients, and in turn, their own clients achieve their common objective: SUCCESS

Note: The data comes from various studies done by the author in various universities & organizations worldwide. The initial studies dealt with different groups of English as a Second Language learners such as Doctors, Engineers, and other specialists, etc.,  and was then extended into other areas such as sales & negotiations, etc.

As can be seen from the content of this article, it is time for us all to start thinking about how to elegantly & effectively cover the THREE areas necessary to convince our audience of the real value of our products, services and/or concepts.

(c) Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Spain, January, 2013.

Bilingual web page (English & Spanish): http://www.brownlee-associates.com

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About ianbrownlee

Ian Brownlee, the founder of Brownlee & Associates has been actively involved in the field of interpersonal & transcultural communication since 1977. He has worked in universities and companies in the following countries: Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, England, The United States of America & Spain, as a teacher, university lecturer, trainer, researcher & consultant. In addition, his experience in living in these countries, and studying the language & communication and interaction styles of each has aided him in reaching a real understanding of intercultural and transcultural differences and how to resolve them. Ian Brownlee has various masters degrees from British Universities: One in Linguistics & Teaching English Overseas from Manchester University, one in Training & Development with a specialization in the area of Communication and Adult learning awarded by the University of Sheffield. He has also gained professional qualifications in Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy from various professional organizations. During his university career he has also studied elements of Sociology, Organizational psychology, Educational psychology, Psycholinguistics and Kinesics. He is a licensed Practitioner, Master Practitioner, and Master Trainer in NLP. as well as being a trainer in Ericksonian Hypnosis. He is a member of a wide range of professional organizations involved in Training, Applied Psychology, Hypnotherapy & Ericksonian Hypnosis, Psychotherapy, Interpersonal Communication & Cross-cultural Communication. He is also recognized by the Program on Negotiation, Harvard University, as a Negotiation Skills Trainer & Mediator and has been a collaborator on various projects with the program, and as such is in great demand as a negotiation consultant for some of the largest multinationals operating worldwide. His wide experience gained in multinational organizations in positions such as Director of Training, Communications Consultant and Negotiator / Mediator has helped many people to learn and apply new methods of negotiating skills and advanced communication techniques both in their private and professional lives. He has published various articles & books related to the field of interpersonal communication and he is the author of all the courses taught by Brownlee & Associates. He has lived and worked in Spain since 1985, initially as a trainer / Special Assistant in a multinational pharmaceutical company and then as the Training Manager for a multinational company involved in Clinical Analysis & Nuclear Medicine. Brownlee & Associates was formed in 1991 and currently has a small, highly-trained staff. While based in Madrid, courses are given world-wide either in English or Spanish. Brownlee & Associates currently work with leading international companies in the areas of pharmaceuticals , Information systems, luxury products, food & beverages, etc.
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3 Responses to What are “Needs”, “Wants” and “Lacks” and Why are They Important?

  1. Pingback: Analiza a ce vor, ce au nevoie și ce trebuie să învețe angajații | Corina Anghel

  2. Needs always negotiable ? Wants not negotiable ? Lacks – a solvable problem ?

    • ianbrownlee says:

      The “Needs” are a basic statement of the perception of the person at this time. The degree of negotiability depends on the context, situation and person. The “Wants” are normally a list of requirements to be satisfied in order for the person to choose a particular product or service. The more “Wants” that are covered by the product or service, the greater the possibility that they will choose that product. The “Wants” are normally listed from the most important (in decending order) to the least important. The “Lacks” are what the person does not know, have, etc., and if they are covered appropriately, change the perception of the person which may influence their “Needs” or “Wants”.

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