Jefferson, Octupus & Wheelbarrow: Taking Needs Analysis To A New Level


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What are the principles of world-beating solution selling?  Well, here communicate them using a rich metaphor – one that you won’t easily forget.  It is Jefferson’s Octopus In A Wheelbarrow!

Taking Needs Analysis To A New Level





Thomas Jefferson, was a founding father, lead author of the Declaration of Independence and 3rd President of the United States of America.  A monument to his memory takes pride of place in Washington DC,  but it also serves as a powerful metaphor for the importance of a more searching approach to needs analysis, or understanding a customers problem/need.  Watch the video and you will find out why.

As the story of the crumbling Jefferson monument demonstrates – you need to dig deeper if you want to get to really understand a problem or need.  The first or most obvious solution is unlikely to be the right one.  At the end of the day turning off the lights earlier was identified as the best solution, but in most sales environments it would have been hard to get past seeing acid rain, or the flight path of planes as the problem.

Needs analysis



The Octopus

The octopus part of the metaphor is symbolic of the behavior required of salespeople – tentacles out seeking to better understand the problem.  Slide3


The Wheelbarrow

Most salespeople arrive pushing a metaphorical wheelbarrow full of their products, features and benefits.  They are ready to tip it out for the customer – to do a features and benefits dump, saying ‘here it is – exactly what you need and have been waiting for!’  But that is not the most effective way to sell – far from it!

The modern needs analysis

It is time to empty your wheel barrow, particularly if it is the early stage of engaging with a  customer, or prospect.  Of course the wheelbarrow is a metaphor, it is the product pitches, slideshows and marketing collateral that you need to stop pushing.  Here is why:

  • If you arrive with the solution then you are making assumptions regarding the customer’s need.
  • If you arrive announcing that you have the solution then you are not really interested in understanding the customer’s needs.
  • It is not solution selling, because by definition what is in the wheelbarrow ain’t a solution until you are clear on what the need is.

To continue the metaphor the salesperson needs a backpack rather than a wheelbarrow.  Because the backpack is on the seller’s back it does not get in the way of genuine engagement with the customer. The seller can reach into it when and if needed to find the most appropriate solution at the right time.


There it is – a light-hearted metaphorical way of looking at the principles of needs analysis and solution selling:  Jefferson In an Octopus’s Wheelbarrow!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ray Collis
Ray Collis is a Business to Business sales coach, sales trainer, Director and Buyer Research Practice Lead of The ASG Group - recognized among the Top 5 sales training organizations worldwide in terms of overcoming the challenges in B2B selling to procurement, or the sophisticated buying organization (ES Research Group). Ray is co-author of several books, including The B2B Sales Revolution and QuickWin B2B Sales, and also of the sales blog Buyer Insights.


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