Back when I was working in sales training, I used to talk a lot about needs and wants. Supposedly there's a world of difference - what a customer wants is not necessarily what they need. The difference was defined as being about emotional satisfaction, and it is the job of the salesperson to ''meet the need'' rather than the want. For example, you want to feel secure, therefore you need insurance. You want to feel important? You need a later model car. You want to feel successful - you should find a challenging and satisfying job. We live in a world where we think a product can solve every problem. A neat and tidy solution, that's what the salesperson wants.
I now don't think it's that complicated - in fact I think that its more likely that needs and wants are, in their simplest form, the same. Sure the ''product'' that is offered might vary - the solution can be packaged differently but ultimately isn't it the same thing? I want this thing, need this thing - at the moment of the first decision it's all the same. I want to feel important therefore I need to feel important. I want a satisfying job therefore I need a satisfying job.
I spoke to a friend yesterday who works incredibly hard. I said, if there was one thing you could have that you don't, what would it be, and she said ''time''. So using, that example, she wants time, she needs time. Sure you can dress it up with she wants time because she needs to relax/have a holiday/bake a cake, but its all the same to me.
A child wants the attention of an adult - its that simple. Mummy I need you or Mummy I want you - all the same. Its base human emotion, not some complicated formula that separates out problems and solutions.
So often, particularly when relating to human relationships, we hear ''what I need is''. And the standard response is: just because that's what you think you want, doesn't mean that's what you need''. I say rubbish. If someone wants a particular outcome, then for them, at that time, it's what they need. Unpack it for sure, see what motivates you - does the child want attention/reassurance/love, does the customer want to feel important/valued/acknowledged - it's all the same to me.
I want coffee, therefore I need coffee. So what? Surely we don't need to go much deeper than that- generally at our first gut reaction to something we are not thinking about consequence - even if logic or reason comes later, it's not there at the beginning. (eg just because I want coffee at 11 pm doesn't mean its a good idea, but at the time, coffee is what was wanted AND needed).
I think we do ourselves a huge injustice if we attempt to solve the problem of someone Else's needs and wants without considering the two concepts together. The salesperson is simply that - selling a solution they believe will fix the need, rather than the want, of the client. Listening to what your customer is saying is of course important - and vital if you are to help with the RIGHT solution of course, however if the customer tells you they want a 40 inch TV, then no amount of convincing them that what they need is a 30 inch one - or a projector - is going to make the slightest difference. And rightly or wrongly, in the moment, which is how most of us live, it's the 40 incher that has our attention. Absolutely there's an almost 100% chance they will go home and realise the salesperson was right all along - but that is their discovery to make, not the role of the salesperson to help them avoid the ''mistake'' in the first place, surely.
Of course what you want might right now not be good for you or the right decision. In fact it probably isn't, in the long term. That's the things with wants and needs. Because they are so close together its almost impossible to separate them until after the event. To stick with the TV idea, it could create a whole other chain of events - can you afford it, can you fit it in your house, will it replace something else valuable. But in our ''want it now need it now'' society, we almost always go with want over need anyway.
And another offshoot outcome from this concept is this: by allowing ourselves to rely on someone else to provide us with a solution, we can then easily extract ourselves from the consequences. He made me buy that TV, even though in the end it wasn't quite what I wanted. My career counsellor encouraged me into that job, even though I wasn't quite sure. So the upside - or downside, depending on your perspective - is that by going with your own definition of what you need and want, you have to also be prepared to take on board the consequences of your own actions.
So if I say, what I want right now is a double espresso, then maybe that's what I need too. And I'm not sure that its the baristas job to dissuade me from buying it in the first place. If I'm awake until Thursday, then it is up to me to deal with that, and ensure next time I buy decaf. Or not.