Throughout my career in sales, I have learned time and again that in order to successfully sell a solution, you need to identify customer pain points.
Discussing your solution and the technology that drives it is simply not enough. You need to understand first what pain the client needs to alleviate and subsequently align your solution and the technology it posses with it.
As mentioned in an earlier blog post, How To Sell In A Recession, a solution needs to satisfy one or more of three key criteria (customer pain points) that all businesses look at when making an investment decision including: increasing revenues, reducing expenses or generating productivity efficiencies. My advice when developing a sales pitch or speaking to a prospect is to identify customer pain points by first doing some background research on the company (review their website, press & news releases, blog, financials, strategic updates) and secondly and most importantly by asking probing questions.
Since most of us are generally pretty decent at web research, this blog post will focus on providing further information around asking probing questions.
Probing questions you can ask to identify customer pain points include:
What Are Your Strategic Priorities Over the Next 6 Months, 1 Year and 2 Years?
Ask generally and also ask with respect to specific areas (e.g. IT strategy, corporate productivity improvements, revenue growth, etc.). Why are you asking this question? You want to draw out from your prospect what their goals are in the short, medium and long term and try to align that with the business benefits your solution can provide. Remember to associate it with revenue generation, cost savings and/or productivity enhancements (the key customer pain points).
What is the Biggest Pain Point You have Today as a Business?
Why are you asking this question? You want to understand specifically where they are hurting and align your product as the solution or at least a component of it. Be sure to probe even further on the answers given. For example, the answer could be “slow sales” or “expenses are out of control”…probe deeper into these to find out what the underlying customer pain points are behind these issues. What is at the heart of their “slow sales” challenge? Is it lack of focused resource? Limited support of channel partners?
What Are the Positive and Negative Aspects of the Solution You are Currently Using?
Why are you asking this question? You want to align your solutions strengths with the weakness areas of their existing solution and also position your strengths against those of the incumbent. It is all about reducing as many customer pain points as possible and the better understanding you have of their current situation, the better you will be able to position your solution.
What Would You Consider a Successful Implementation?
Ask for specifics, for example, cost savings of 20%, ROI of 30% or payback period of 3 years? You want to understand how they are evaluating their options and the proposals they may get from your competitors. Once you understand this you can align your benefits with customer pain points and their criteria or influence them enough to change their criteria based on the benefits your solution can provide.
What is the Decision Making Process Around Purchasing and What is Your Budget For a Project of This Size and Scope?
Why are you asking this question? You want to identify who the main influencers (other users, business units, IT team) and final decision makers are with respect to getting “go ahead” approval. You also want to understand how their purchasing process works e.g. is the approval given and then submitted to their Purchasing department – what then? Or is IT involved in the process and what role do they play?
In addition, you want to understand if they have budgeted money for this solution, are thinking about budgeting it and depending on their answer you can tweak or tailor your pricing information accordingly. In some cases, they may not have committed to a budget so the information you provide on your solution will help form the basis of their budgeting process. You want to focus not so much on the price but on the value your solution will provide them.
The last piece of advice I can provide is to take a genuine interest in the well-being of your client. You should want above all else to alleviate your customer pain points. This should help you to ask the right questions and convey to them that you sincerely care about their well-being and want to be a long-term partner in their business. Happy Hunting!
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