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Anticipating Needs: A Key Skill That Can Set You Apart from the Crowd

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By Loren Miner, COO
With Tom Brennan, Senior Writer


Anticipating needs of others is an important skill in life. It is one thing to be able to react to someone’s needs, but if you can address someone’s needs before that person vocalizes it, you will stand apart from the crowd. It also should help deepen that relationship.

It’s an extremely valuable skill when used with customers, management, coworkers, and even friends and family:

  • Anticipating a client’s needs can help create loyalty and repeat customers.
  • Anticipating the needs of management and coworkers can help avoid misunderstandings, protracted back and forth questioning, and a lot of frustration.
  • Anticipating a spouse’s need . . . well, we don’t even have to go there!

Mastering this skill requires becoming more aware, and that may take a little practice. Here are some ways to you can do that, along with some simple examples of how they can be implemented.

Do your best to put yourself into the other person’s place; often it’s pretty easy to empathize with them.

  • Example: a grocery clerk sees that the checkout line is getting too long; by putting himself in the shoes of the customers, he recognizes that they are eager to pay and move on. He picks up the intercom and calls for assistance.
  • Example: a manager asks you to include certain information in a project report summary. Putting yourself in the manager’s shoes, you anticipate that she will want that same information in all project reports moving forward.

Try to pick up on non-verbal cues, such as vocal tone, facial expressions, body language, and obvious limitations. In a virtual environment this is especially challenging.

  • Example: on a Discovery Call you ask a client, “Can we expect to get your feedback on candidates within 24 hours?” The client answers, “Yes,” but there is hesitation in his voice. The word says one thing, the voices says another. You respond, “Sounds like you’re not sure. What is a reasonable expectation?”
  • Example: a real estate agent is planning to take a client to see several homes, including one that has two stories. When he picks up the client, he sees that she is 75 years old, so he asks if she even wants to see it before wasting her time.

Learn what is important to others when providing information such as a report. One way to do this is to try to anticipate the questions they will ask.

  • Example: You’re reporting on the status of a recruiting project with a client that is close to your CEO’s heart. Of course you want to include information like what social media sites you’ve used, how many candidates you’ve touched, or how you overcame a particular challenge. But the CEO is probably going to ask about client satisfaction, so include that, too.
  • Example: You’re preparing a report for a CFO. Be sure to include numbers!

Discover other people’s hot buttons and pay attention to them.

  • Example: you’re getting ready for a weekly call with a client who is always talking about sourcing passive candidates. Don’t wait for the question — early in the conversation, let the client know what you’re doing to target that group.
  • Example: you’re recruiting for a position with a particular client, and you know that your Account Executive is keen on expanding this account. As you huddle with the client, she tells you that Candidate A might be a better fit for another opening she has, one that is challenging. Share that info with the Account Executive — hot buttons can be positive, too.

Be a good listener, including “reading” between the lines as the other person talks. It never hurts to ask the other person if you aren’t sure, especially if you’re not talking face-to-face.

  • Example: you’re a sales manager and one of your sales reps is telling you that a prospective client wants to hire your firm, but the prospect wants to change your service offering in a way that is likely to make it less effective. The direct report says, “The client is always right, aren’t they?” but you hear, “I need help selling them on our entire, integrated service.”
  • Example: a client comes to you asking for help with a current opening. As you discuss the positions, the client says, “These roles are always challenging to fill.” What’s between those lines? With a little probing you might discover that they have recurring openings for this same position, and what they really need is a talent pipeline.

We all appreciate getting something that we want or need without having to ask for it. When you fulfill a need before someone asks, it demonstrates a high level of intelligence. It also results in a very valuable smile.

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One Response to “Anticipating Needs: A Key Skill That Can Set You Apart from the Crowd”

  1. August 16, 2017 at 11:34 pm, 5 Ways to Make Your Clients Love You - All Consuming said:

    […] person before they’re verbally expressed. If you want your clients to love you, find a way to anticipate their needs ahead of […]


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