identify pain points

Five Ways to Identify Pain Points

Salespeople must identify pain points to successfully build credibility and ultimately close. But, not every rep bothers with this essential step, creating a missed opportunity to present themselves as credible. ”Businesses, no matter [how] big or small, need to put effort to identify the customer pain points to acquire and retain customers by delivering a frictionless experience,” writes REVE chat’s Snigdha Patel.

Why identify customer pain points?

Buyers are swayed by value, sales credibility and trust, which sellers must demonstrate. In particular, credibility impacts every aspect of a sale, starting from the very moment you attempt first contact. “Credibility is the very thing that determines whether a buyer replies to your email, agrees to take a meeting, or decides they want to do business with you,” writes SalesFuel CEO C. Lee Smith in his book “SalesCred: How Buyers Qualify Sellers.” 

How to uncover these vital pain points

You can't identify pain points without knowledge. Before reaching out, it’s imperative that sales reps conduct thorough research on the prospect and all aspects of their business. “Nowhere is credibility more evident to a buyer than the amount of effort the salesperson puts into pre-call intelligence,” Smith writes. Patel agrees, noting that conducting thoughtful, thorough research is a must-do step prior to a sales call. This research will educate you on the basics, like the prospect’s industry and company, as well as bigger insights such as their current goals and challenges. This, in turn, will lend you major credibility.

Another way to identify pain points is to ask questions. But, not just any questions will give you the insight you need. Salespeople must be very thoughtful about what they ask in order to get prospects to dig deep. And, how a question is asked is just as important. Mark Whitlock, in an article for Golden Spiral Marketing, points out that reps should be asking two types of questions: 

  • Open-Ended Questions (questions should start with who, what, where, when, why, how, help me, and describe)
  • Probing/Clarifying Questions (such as questions that begin with, “Tell me about…,” “When that happened, what did you do?”)

These types of questions encourage dialogue, opening up the opportunity to identify pain points. Rather than reps doing all of the talking, with these questions, reps are inviting the prospect to share. This, in turn, will allow them to open up and give deeper insight into their situation.

5 questions to ask

Whitlock goes on to give five examples of excellent questions that reps can ask to help identify pain points. He also encourages salespeople to go even deeper by providing examples of effective follow-up questions. 

Consider adding these questions to your sales dialogue to encourage the prospect to open up. 

What is the biggest challenge your team/company is currently facing? This question is effective because it helps identify pain points of different kinds. Whether it is financial or process-driven, this question will reveal what the prospect perceives to be their biggest pain. This also may shed light on an issue that you didn’t discover during your initial research. Follow-up questions could be:

  • Can you provide an example?
  • What have you already done to address this?
  • If this problem goes unresolved, what happens?

What takes up the most time in your day? This question can identify pain points that are at a personal management level, such as time management or organizational troubles. It could actually uncover issues that the prospect may not even realize are a pain point. Follow-up questions include: 

  • Can you quantify the cost of your inhibited productivity?
  • How many hours do you think you lose on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?

What does your boss care about the most? This sheds light on the boss’s expectations, as well as the relationship between the prospect and their boss. Consider following up with:

  • How would solving this problem help your boss?
  • Can you be more specific or provide an example?
  • What is the cost to your boss right now by not having this problem solved?

These, as well as the remaining two questions from Whitlock’s article, will help reps drill down and identify pain points. This gained insight will help establish credibility, which opens the door for a trusting relationship with the prospect. As Smith explains, “With your increased credibility, you’ll get access to sensitive business information that you can use to strengthen your bond with the buyer.”

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica is a senior research analyst for SalesFuel focusing on selling to SMB decision makers. She also reports on sales and presentation tips for SalesFuel and Media Sales Today. Jessica is a graduate of Ohio University.
Jessica Helinski

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