Every worker — from entry-level interns to C-level executives — suffers from business headaches. As the year goes on, these pain points evolve and are often a function of circumstances beyond an individual’s or organization’s control. But businesses that are easing these customer pain points by creating and selling solutions need to develop a high level of understanding and empathy as they craft their sales strategies.

A pain point in the broadest sense is defined as “something that is a recurring source of trouble, annoyance, or distress.”

This simple graphic from WordStream illustrates the levels of pain. One might think that the greater the pain, the easier offering a solution might be. However, customers who have significant or uncontrollable pain sources may be so distracted by bigger issues that selling your specific solution to them may prove even more difficult than marketing to someone who just as a mildly distressing challenge to face.

Diagnosing the Pain

The key to a successful sales and marketing strategy is knowing — at a broad, deep, and ultimately very specific level — what’s troubling your prospects. Especially when selling-in to larger organizations, understanding the pain points of everyone involved in the decision-making process is critical.

C-level executives today cite fear of a recession as one of their biggest fears heading into the new year. This recent study by the Conference Board rank orders pain points by geography. Clearly, you cannot control the factors contributing to many of these concerns. But many organizations will react to them by minimizing risk. Offering solutions that are affordable and do not require huge up-front or long-term commitments is an obvious way of addressing this pain point.

As you get deeper into an organization or work with different types of companies (e.g., SMBs rather than enterprise-level companies), you may find that the pain points differ radically.

Ask the right questions of every prospect and client so that you understand their challenges. Listen well and create a tight sales and marketing plan to address the issues. Perform research to understand common pain points and develop highly-targeted campaigns to address each issue. Marketing technology now enables marketers to target their messaging and solutions to specific groups and challenges. Utilize that to your best advantage.

Among some of the major business stressors are:

Financial Pain

Limited budgets and cash flow are common issues for businesses of all sizes. Often decision-makers will focus on the cost of a product or service without understanding how the investment will payback. The more you can demonstrate to prospects (or departing customers) how your solution will result in greater profitability, you can help ease the pain.

Process and Productivity Pain

Within organizations, people who perform day-to-day tasks may be so caught up in their workloads and challenges that they can’t even begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Case studies and statistics can be critical in illustrating how your solution can streamline tasks. But keep in mind that internal decision-makers may complain about inefficiencies and redundancies but also concerned about the time and effort required to put a new solution in place. Automation of tasks may also heighten fear of job loss.

So, although professionals may want the pain to end, they fear new pains. Empathetic selling, team-building within your prospects’ organizations, and examples from satisfied clients may all be useful techniques in overcoming objections.

Work with prospects to create an implementation plan that works with their schedule and internal systems as well as yours.

People Pain

“I’d love to buy it but I can’t convince my boss.” is a complaint that salespeople often hear. Investing the time and energy in building a relationship with a prospect will only take you so far if the ultimate spending decision lies with someone else (or even a committee) in the organization.

Here, you must build a deeper understanding of the internal structure and process at your prospect’s organization. Give your contact person the tools and facts they need to sell-in within their organization. Offer to accompany them to critical meetings. Tailor your sales and marketing approaches to different functions within the organization. For example:

  • CFOs and Purchasing professionals will want to know primarily about the cost and ROI of the product or service they are buying.
  • Technology heads may ask questions about security and integration within their current systems.
  • The team implementing the solution will want to know how the purchase will have an impact on their day-to-day roles.

If you have real examples and testimonials from clients in every function who you’ve delighted with your solution, be sure your prospect is aware of them.

Change Pain

Although many professionals will not admit to it, fear of the new and different is one reason why they shut down when presented with a new solution — even one that may ease longer-term financial, process, productivity, or people pain.

No simple painkiller exists for this one. Only time and experience ultimately alleviates anxiety and objections to adopting a new and different solution or problem-solver. Your sales team must be trained in how to deal with the bumps in the road that come with new solutions. When faced with complaints or resistance, fight the urge to be defensive. Listen to and calmly address objections and become part of the long-term solution. Trust takes time to build, even when you have a “champion” within an organization.

The Ever-Evolving Pain Point Continuum

Just as every human can experience different levels and definitions of physical and mental pain and those symptoms change based on age and situation, your prospects’ and clients’ “suffering” (minor and major) will evolve, based on the economic environment, competitive threats, management changes, and many other factors. No one formula for exists and you must build relationships, research, listen, and learn to earn your place as a trusted pain-reliever rather than a persistent (and potentially pain-causing) salesperson.