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The Johari Window, created by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955, is a simple and powerful tool used to improve self-awareness and mutual understanding among individuals and groups.  Its research technique compares and contrasts how a person sees himself/herself, versus how others see her/him.  For the consultative salesperson, applying Johari to understanding client needs can be an instructive, even insightful experience.  The Johari Window is comprised of four quadrants:

Open (“Arena”): This quadrant represents those personal traits that both the individual and others are aware of.  Hidden (“Façade”): These are the personal traits that the person is aware of, but that others are unaware of (either because the traits aren’t conspicuous, or are being intentionally camouflaged).  Blind Spot: These are personal traits that the person is unaware of, but that others can seeUnknown: These are personal traits the subject might or might not have; either way, neither he/she nor others can see them.  (As such, this “potential” quadrant is typically less often addressable and actionable than the other three.)

Now, let’s substitute the phrase “client needs” for “personal traits,” and revisit Johari’s three most relevant quadrants:

Open client needs are the “easy ones,” because they’re readily recognizable to both the client and the salesperson.  Indeed, if the salesperson somehow fails to spot and service all of the “open” quadrant needs, she/he risks under-serving the client (and might even lose the business to a competitor who does see these needs, and alerts our client to them).

Blind Spot client needs can be detected by thoughtful, in-depth questioning and brought to the client’s attention.  This is a conspicuous example of “adding value”­— and the client is sure to appreciate a salesperson who brings solutions to threats and problems he/she didn’t even know were there in the first place.  On rare occasions, the salesperson may be so exceptionally knowledgeable, insightful and imaginative that she/he will discover an obscure, latent client need that probably belongs in the Unknown quadrant.

Hidden client needs are especially challenging: he/she is reluctant to volunteer certain needs to the salesperson.  Examples of why this can happen: the client may feel responsible for contributing to the problem, or be concerned about the risks in trying to solve it, or be embarrassed by some aspect of his/her personal or job situation, etc.  (Be empathetic; we all have such issues!)  The consultative salesperson who can sensitively and supportively uncover and meet hidden needs may be forging the strongest client relationship of all.

Here’s where process enters the picture.  Because client needs may be dispersed throughout all four Johari quadrants, only a rigorous, systematic, consciously (and sensitively) applied process can hope to uncover them fully and accurately.  This process will necessarily emphasize questioning and listening skills— the core tools that bring needs to the surface— and it’s called, “Consultative Selling Skills.”

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