Ever spent time with a prospect who didn't buy? Of course you have.

Is it fun?

No, it is not.

Selling to people who can't or won't buy is a huge drain on your sales productivity, budget, and team.

Top two-percenters need to spend time only with prospects who need your help, want your help, and are willing to work with you to solve their problems.

Your prospects need to have authority and money, but having business pain trumps both. If your prospects don't have business pain, they have no need. And without need, there's no hope for a sale. It's up to salespeople to ask effective sales questions and uncover business pain as quickly as possible.

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What are pain points?

what are pain points?

Pain points are persistent problems with a product or service that can inconvenience customers and their businesses. Or to simply put it, they’re unmet needs waiting to be satisfied. Any type of customer can have pain points, on an individual level or for companies on a large scale. Let’s look at some common examples.

Pain Point Examples

We’ll break down more specific scenarios further into this article, but for starters, a typical pain point could be something like:

  • A customer needs a service above their budget: Financial limitations stop customers from working efficiently and leads them to search for more cost-effective alternatives.
  • A business with too many redundant steps in its strategy: Too much process lead time costs money and reveals a need to reduce it.
  • Communication made unclear between departments: Teams need to find a way to communicate information more properly to reduce errors in process.

These are all situations that cause “pain” or stifle productivity. The first step in addressing these pains is knowing how to identify and eliminate them, so let’s discuss how to do it for your customers.

Customer Pain Points

Whether it’s a complaint about customer service, dissatisfaction with a product or service, or an idea for innovation that has yet to be uncovered — your customer can fill you in. There’s many different ways to identify and treat customer pain points, and the best way to do it is to hear what they have to say.

And customers, at the end of the day, are your bread and butter. They’re a priority whether they are purchasing an end product, or a service to help run their operations. Now let's segway into what it means to have pain points as a business.

Business pain points keep the company from functioning and should be addressed as a priority.

Business Pain Point Examples

If your prospects say they’re experiencing employee dissatisfaction and retention issues that are impacting their productivity and hiring, customer churn that impacts their revenue, or a severe lack of leads that make it impossible to hit their revenue goals, you've hit on business pain points.

Pain is the first thing top salespeople look for in their prospects because pain is what starts them on a buying journey in the first place and is the driving urgency to find a solution. These are some of the most common types of business pain points your prospects might face along with examples of each:

1. Positioning Pain Points

What company doesn’t need to acquire more or better business? However, this end goal is easier to set than to achieve. Many businesses may understand — or think they understand — what’s holding their marketing and positioning efforts back. Here are some examples of what you might hear from prospects who have positioning pains:

  • “No one knows who our company is.”
  • “Our competitors are outspending us.”
  • “The market is changing, leaving us behind.”
  • “Until now, we haven’t considered digital marketing, so we’re behind.”
  • “Our competitor has more green space than we do on most channels.”

Because acquisition is so closely aligned with revenue, successfully identifying a positioning pain and your solution for it is a great way to prove value.

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2. Financial Pain Points

Money is a big topic in business, and many business pains are caused by lack of it and solved by more of it. Every company benefits from improving their financial standing. Here are some examples of critical financial pain points that require serious solutions:

  • “We’re not selling enough to keep the lights on.”
  • “Revenue is up, but profitability is low.”
  • “We don’t have enough visibility to know if we’re making good financial decisions.”
  • “We may be overpaying for equipment and tools, but we don’t know what to cut.”
  • “We have signups but they bounce.”

Your offerings might help businesses who want to reduce spending or better manage cash flow.

3. People Pain Points

People are at the heart of every business, often constituting both the greatest expense and largest asset. If there are people problems such as the following, it can cause problems in other areas of the business:

  • "Employee morale is low."
  • "We lose our best employees to higher-paying positions elsewhere."
  • "Our lack of diversity leads to lack of innovation."
  • "We can't trust our middle managers to train and motivate."
  • “Our actual company culture doesn’t align with what we declared.”

If your product or service helps organizations manage, incentivize, or delight employees, you'll take the pressure off those at the top and look like a hero to anyone else involved too.

4. Process Pain Points

With people problems come operational problems (or maybe the other way around). Your prospects know that the best way to achieve repeatable success is by implementing repeatable processes. The question then is, “how?” They may be facing hurdles such as:

  • “Our hiring process is unwieldy, and we struggle with finding highly qualified candidates.”
  • “Customer churn is high because our service department is inundated and can’t keep up.”
  • “We have no system in place to qualify leads.”
  • “There are inconsistencies in each employee’s workflow, which leads to disorganization and varying performance.”
  • “The current software we operate in is outdated, but we fear transitioning to a new one will be hard.”

If you unearth process pain points, ask your prospect to envision what a smoothly running company, department, or system would feel like and what kind of difference it would make.

5. Productivity Pain Points

It's the job of managers to remove roadblocks for the team so that things get done, productivity remains high, and profit benefits. That said, it's easy to get stuck in the weeds of the business and fall victim to inefficiencies that waste major time. Here are some examples of productivity pain points in business:

  • "We keep missing client deadlines."
  • "We spend way too much time in meetings."
  • "Our administrative work is out of hand."
  • "Quality issues with our product has led to costly recalls and/or customer churn."
  • “Our employees aren’t supported enough to complete their assigned tasks.”

If there's something prohibiting a company and its employees from working efficiently and effectively, you can position your solution as a time, money, and headache saver.

6. Small Business Pain Points

When working in a small business, pain points left unsolved have the potential to halt operations altogether. If your customer is a small business, you need to ask questions that address the many tasks a small team has to complete as opposed to a corporation with more hands on deck. Small business pain points can be across the board such as:

  • “Orders consistently ship late and our team is already so stressed trying to keep up.”
  • “Sourcing talent best fit for the business hasn’t been easy.”
  • “Posting across all of our social media channels is really tedious.”
  • “In my business, managing a team is intimidating because I already wear many hats.”
  • “Keeping up with accounting grows more complicated as time progresses.”

Many of these issues can be addressed with a product or service offering grounded in current technology and consulting. Small businesses could benefit from workflow automation and proper guidance from experienced professionals.

4 Tips for Addressing Business Pain

Once you identify pain, you can determine how to solve it for your prospect. This is an incredible tool to leverage as a salesperson since you can become a solution-provider rather than a product-seller. Here are three tips to start positioning in this way:

1. Use your prospect's language when talking about pain.

This is a psychological technique that can go a long way in building trust with your prospect. Instead of trying to appear impressive by relying on jargon only your colleagues would understand, show your prospect you take them seriously by using their language and terminology.

2. Find out who's empowered to solve the pain.

Find the economic buyer as quickly as possible. Ask your prospect whose budget a purchase would come out of and what teams would need to be involved in a buying decision. There's little point in spending hours with a person who can't ink a deal.

3. Identify additional key stakeholders as early as possible.

If you're selling to multiple teams and one team has completely different priorities than another, you need to know early. If you'll have to go through a two-month legal review process before you can close a deal, you need to know early.

Prospects are sometimes worried they'll appear less authoritative if they tell you they're not the sole decision-maker, so I like to use the following questions to avoid that impression:

  • Who besides yourself needs to be involved in this decision?
  • Who else would want to know that we had this conversation?

4. Frame your offering to reflect the prospect's dilemma.

As you build trust with the prospect and listen to different perspectives, you have to personalize the solution to their specific needs. If your product serves multiple purposes, tell them which features speak to their problems.

Listen and affirm your prospect's pain points while asking for information, and it'll be easier to make your pitch meet everybody's requirements.

Inbound sales is all about empathy. To close more deals and become as helpful as possible, start asking the right questions to the right prospects.

sales qualification

 sales qualification

Originally published Oct 18, 2021 5:00:00 PM, updated October 18 2021

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Sales Qualification