Focus on Sales: 3 Proven Ways to Uncover Your Client’s Pain Points

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Welcome back to Focus on Sales. In our ongoing quest to help you become the best salesperson possible, we’re going to zoom in on tip 35 Understand your client’s pain points.

To understand what pain points are and how they will help you stand out in the field, we’re going to answer four questions:

1. What are pain points?
2. Why do they matter to salespeople?
3. How do you go about finding out what they are?
4. How do you sell your solution?

What is a Pain Point?

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Simply put, a pain point is a problem. It could be anything from a badly received advertising campaign to persistent labor problems and it could be real or perceived. Whatever the case is, it’s something that causes your prospective client pain – embarrassment, loss of revenue, loss of market share, legal issues, inability to meet orders… the list goes on and on.

It’s important to remember that every single prospective client you will meet is unique. Even two similarly sized companies in the same industry who operate in a similar area will have pain points that are unique to them. Of course, they will share some industry-related points, but there will be specific needs thaqt each on has that should be addressed.

Why do Pain Points Matter to You as a Salesperson?

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Ever heard someone say: “Don’t talk to me about problems, talk to me about solutions”? Well, that right there is why you should care very deeply about your prospective client’s pain points. Regardless of what you are selling, whether it’s a product or a service, you hold the key to solving one of those problems.

And frankly, you should be glad your clients have pain points. Nobody shells out hundreds of thousands of dollars to overhaul their company fleet, or replace their financial software, or put vending machines on every floor, unless they have to, unless there is a really good reason.

How to Indentify Pain Points

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Pain points can be real or perceived, of course, and the company may be completely unaware that they even have them, so it’s up to you to get out there and find out what they are.

1. Read all about it

The internet is your friend. You can find all kinds of information about your prospective client here. Twenty years ago, I’d have told you to pick up a newspaper, get hold of a copy of their annual report, ask for copies of press releases and so on. Now, all you need to do is Google it.


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Nonetheless, it’s still a good idea to read all the news reports you can find in which your prospect is mentioned, whether it’s an article about them, about their industry in general, or in which their CEO was asked to venture an opinion on some matter. Don’t restrict yourself to stories about just them, either. Even though each client is unique, they still do face industry-wide issues and while a competitor may be hogging the news with their minimum-wage disputes, your prospective client is probably facing a similar problem that just hasn’t made it to the news yet.

Get a copy of their annual report as well – it’s just a lot easier than it used to be, because most companies will put them online. Smaller companies won’t necessarily put out an annual report, but they should still have some kind of overview of how their last year went. Annual reports are incredibly useful, especially since integrated reporting became much more important than just publishing your balance sheet. Modern annual reports include everything from the company’s financial records to information about their corporate governance, social investment, labor issues and any other problems they faced during the year. If it’s important for their potential investors and shareholders to know about, it’s important for you to know about it, too.


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The company website holds another great source of information – the FAQ section (if they have one). Just reading through these questions will give you a great overview of the kinds of questions people ask them and will save you the trouble of asking them yourself. You may not identify specific pain points here, but it will give you a good idea of the kinds of questions you could ask.

2. Become a social media stalker

Isn’t social media great? Such a useful tool for getting your message out there, managing your reputation, being in touch with your customer… It’s also a really great place for people to vent their frustrations with your company, to put every single infraction, whether real or perceived, out there for the entire world to see.


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The smart salesperson will follow their prospective client on every possible platform – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube – if your client uses it, you should follow it, even if it’s something as seemingly unused as Google Plus. And don’t just read what they put out there; read the comments that their clients make, the tweets directed at them, the Facebook posts about poor service, shoddy products, unfair labor practices, all of it. This will give you real insight into their current and immediate pain points.

3. Ask

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Ah, the obvious one… you thought we’d forgotten, right? This is the most straightforward way to get information – just open up your mouth (or email) and ask. Right? Well… yes and no. Bombarding a prospect with questions right out of the gate could cause them to feel overwhelmed, attacked or suspicious, and could cause them to just shut down completely.

Of course asking questions is a vital part of the information-gathering process, but asking informed, specific questions that are designed to tease out more detail is going to be a lot more effective than just opening with, “So, what are your pain points?” You need to at least have a working knowledge of the industry in general and the company specifically to know what questions to ask. You’re going to come across as well-informed, rather than seeming as though you’re just fishing.

Be the painkiller

When you walk into that first meeting with a prospect, you need to already know the answers to the first three questions you’re going to ask, and have a good idea of how to present a solution. You do not want to be winging it and making it up on the fly. If you’ve done your research, you will be able to confidently present your pitch in such a way that it shows you already understand where they’re at, and that you want to talk about it and find out more.


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Don’t pitch-and-run. Even if you did great research and think you know what the customer needs, don’t just pitch them a great, personalized presentation and then be done with it. Spend some time before the presentation asking them questions based on what you’ve learned. Don’t be afraid to share how you got the information, either. Saying, “I read in your annual report that…” makes you come across as someone who actually cares about their real needs and will help break the ice, making them open up to you.

Personally, I find the triple-step approach works really well. First, mention an issue they’ve had that you’ve identified; second, get them to elaborate on it; third, suggest a specific solution.

Here are a couple of ways to phrase your questions to get the conversation flowing:

I understand you had some issues recently/last year/in the last few weeks with these events that occurred. Am I right in assuming this had an effect on these aspects of your business? Would you find this kind of solution helpful in dealing with this issue in the future?

I read on this online publication that you have experienced this issue. Is that something you are still struggling with? What could we do to help you fix this?

Take the time to really make sure you’ve identified pain points, something the prospect really needs help with, and that you’re not just looking at surface issues that may or may not need looking at eventually. You may even find yourself identifying a pain point that the client isn’t aware of yet, and opening a discussion on it could lead you to being first in line to solve the issue.


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By identifying actual pain points, you have made yourself infinitely more significant to the prospect than any other salesperson who just comes in with a pre-made sales pitch and rattles through it like they’ve done it a thousand times before – which they probably have. If your meeting goes down in such a way that you don’t even need to bring out the pitch at all, so be it. What you want isn’t to beat the record of who pitched the most times in one year, it’s to be the person who made the most quality sales and signed up the most long-term customers.

Next week in Focus on Sales we’ll take a look at 24 Broadening your relationships within existing client companies. In the meantime, let us know in the comments below whether you’re finding this information useful and whether there are any other topics you’d like us to cover.

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