How To Find Pain Points

How to find pain points is one of the basic sales questions we need to answer. We know what they are, and we know they are not features or benefits. But how do we get them?

The great thing about how to find pain points is that they are not difficult to find. We merely have to uncover them. Yes, they really are out there, like a good-for-you vegetable resting just under the surface.

Pain points are specific to their niche. Similarities and crossovers may exist from one niche to another, but terminology will change. Remain aware of this. You cannot simply carbon copy a pain point over to a new niche.

It's as simple as this: prospects will tell you the pain points. However, it takes time.

How To Find Pain Points the Easy Way

You have to be willing to begin badly. Realize that your first several days--probably the initial week if you're dialing an hour a day, and perhaps even two--will be purely for discovering pain points. Want faster results? Make more dials. This is the barrier of effectiveness: most people give up after a couple hours of calling. But the payoff if you commit is tremendous.

When you start, you'll begin with a "good enough" script. Your best guess for what may work. Pick a niche and stick with it. Some prospects won't want to talk, and that's fine; there are always people who don't want to or aren't able to talk. We know this from our industry standard stats:

- half the people you call won't be available

- half of the people who pick up the phone can't actually talk right now.

But of those who do pick up and can talk, some of them will want to help you with how to find pain points. Some people are just plain helpful. Others want to puff out their chests and be the expert. Either one is good for you.

You won't have to fight. Keep your ears open. Listen to what prospects are telling you. Eventually you're going to realize you've heard what this prospect just said before. Write that phrase down. Write it down exactly the way they said it. Notice the terminology. And over the next few days, you'll hear that same thing again and again. When you are told the same thing by three or more decision makers in that industry, you have the makings of a pain point.

"I'm sick and tired of metal fabrication subcontractors promising to meet our delivery dates to get the order, and then failing to do so. That screws up all the inspections and the schedule of all the trades that follow them in."

"Yeah, we gave a few jobs to a fab shop and their work is good, but they keep missing delivery dates. That really causes me a lot of trouble. I get penalized by the developer. The city inspectors and finishing carpeters hate my guts."

"I might consider trying you, but there's a question I have: can you deliver when you say you will?"

This is an example of a series of things you might here--and I did hear--when prospecting for a metal fabrication shop. You can see the common thread. You can also pick out some of the specific industry terms. The pain point is right there.

The No-Risk Way of How To Find Pain Points

Here is a way to uncover pain points without disturbing your target market:

Call the same niche, but in a different geographic area.

Yes, you may miss something that's different about your local area, but you'll get enough to start having good conversations.

Once you get the decision maker on the line, ask: "I'm not sure if you can help me, but I'm trying to find out about the experience (their niche) has had with (your type of company). Have you worked with one?"

Eg. "I'm trying to find out about the experience building contractors have had with metal fab shops. Have you worked with one?"

If they have a story to share, they will.

Then ask them what the worst experience they've had with one was. And then the best.

Yes, the best. Good experiences can be turned around into pain points. Just reverse the situation...if you can actually accomplish the end result.

An Example of How To Find Pain Points

I had a client in Florida who worked all day. He got out of the office at 5PM local time. Obviously we couldn't call locally, so we picked roofers in Colorado. Within a dozen dials, he had the marketing manager of a medium-sized roofing company on the line. Just out of niceness, she spent twenty minutes sharing with him the specifics of the roofing industry in Colorado. I pulled six pain points out of that conversation. It was easy. Now we had our way of starting great conversations with prospects.

Now this may sound simple. And it is. But when making sales calls, most people are concerned with what they are going to say rather than listening to what the other person is saying. I am asking you to keep listening in mind. What is the prospect actually saying?

The information is out there. You simply have to be willing to put in the time and effort, which is not massive and yet has a huge payoff, to uncover it.

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Pain Points: Back to the Basics

Pain PointsPain Points are a straightforward yet vital tool to sale success. When a sale has been achieved but the salesperson is unsure why, you can be certain at least one pain point was accidentally hit upon and was responsible.

We've been looking at buyer personas the last few days, and that is a pretty advanced selling topic. You have to have a number of elements of your sales plan worked out before you get to that point. So today we'll go back to the basics. Pain points are typical problems, or symptoms of problems, that your solution resolves for customers. When you get these right, they accelerate credibility, trust and speed in the sales process. Unfortunately, most people in sales roles only know about features and benefits. These are not pain points. And this is why the large majority of selling efforts are ineffective.

The Difference Between Features, Benefits and Pain Points

A feature is a noticeable factor about your product or service. For instance, it's red. Or delivery is guaranteed within one hour.

A benefit is an improvement or advantage the customer gets because of one or more features. Examples: their new red Ferrari gets a lot of attention, or the kids are fed a hot and tasty pizza without a long wait--and the parents don't have to do any cooking.

None of these things are pain points, however.

A transformation must happen. A certain ordering of the words and specific terminology are required. Consider: when the language of the prospect is used--jargon from their individual niche--what does that communicate? That the salesperson truly understands the prospect's world. This is precisely what gives us instant credibility. When the salesperson sounds like the prospect, rapport and trust can develop much more quickly.

Example Pain Points

So what would be a pain point for our sports car buyer?

They realize they're getting older, and worry they're less attractive to the opposite sex than they were in earlier years.

Of course, you would want to soften this language so it has less harsh impact upon the prospect. And you could even ask it as a series of negative reverse selling questions: "I see you're admiring our 458. ...You probably haven't thought about how many heads this will turn when you cruise by?" ... "You seem to be a mature guy who appreciates this kind of quality. I don't suppose you've had the chance to follow luxury sports cars long?" This can easily lead us into a discussion uncovering the age of our prospect, and their self-image.

And for the pizza-buying moms and dads?

They want quiet, happy kids with full bellies, NOW.

For an example with industry-specific terminology, here's one from my days of running a metal fab shop in the mid-2000s:

I work with building contractors who are upset fab subs have constantly missed their delivery dates, pushing back the completion schedule of all the other trades and inspections.

Incidentally, I got two points down for that niche. After I achieved that, every single builder I called with those two bits of information gave me an order. Every one. It may have been a $100 order for custom plasma cut bathroom keychains, as one architect's office requested; but it also may have been an $8000 staircase railing for a high-end new home. Our problems became operational rather than sales-related. A whole new ballgame.

Can you see now why it's so important to niche down, and stick with it? In a relatively short time, typically a couple of weeks, you can develop the right language to create immediate credibility in the mind of your prospect. And then they're much more open to having a dialogue with you. The secret, which you know if you've been following me for awhile, is that great conversations lead to sales. And you also probably know that most prospecting calls are begun so badly there is no rest of the call. You want as many great conversations with qualified prospects as possible. But these dialogues are not easy to get. Bad salespeople have made prospects put up a wall of skepticism. The language we use at the start of the call can help us overcome this barrier.

Next time, we'll discuss how to figure out what the pain points are for the niche you're calling into.

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Be Brave and Do Information Interviews

Information interviews are one of the true secrets of successfully entering a new market.

And fortunately for you, your contemporaries are just too darn afraid to ask for them.

Someone who's experienced in the field you want to get into will know things. They'll have an idea of what the pain points are.

Not every time—occasionally you'll run into a member of that target market who simply doesn't know how to articulate the common problems of the niche...

...but you'll still have a friendly conversation, and I'll bet they introduce you to one or two other people who do know.

What you're looking for are the key words and phrases that declare, "Yes! I am a member here! I know what you're struggling with."

For me, they stand out immediately. As soon as I've heard them, I recognize them.

And after 20+ years in the professional working world, even I have to go back to the drawing board and do some information interviews every few years or so.

I'm not exempt.

information interviews two women chatting discussion

Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

Information Interviews Help You Learn FAST

All that learning I did to this point means little in the context of the new target market.

I am not my customer.

What I believe is important is not what they believe is important.

You'll see people try to jumpstart this step by using an online survey.

I don't believe that's anywhere near as valuable as a one-on-one conversation. In person if you can, by video or a phone call if you can't. I've used Zoom, Whatsapp and the old fashioned phone.

If you can, record the conversation. Make sure you get the interviewee's permission first.

Now the key thing here is having the guts to ask.

It really does not take much.

Just ask if they'll meet with you for 20 minutes. You want to hear from them about their experience in the field.

I've had people offer to do this without me asking them.


Because some people enjoy sharing. Others like to show off what they know. Sometimes it's a combination.

Sure, you'll get an individual who's "too busy." I still get that today. But it's one person in a hundred I ask (no kidding.) It's a little shocking for a moment, but then I laugh and look at the 25 other people who've already agreed to meet with me.

You don't need 25.

Four or five would be a great start.

But imagine if you did meet 25 members of that target market. Imagine if you met with them over a week or two. How much would you pick up about that market?

And really, really fast.

So be brave. Have the guts to ask. You only need to be brave for a minute.

The payoff is amazing.

>> Jason Kanigan is a business strategist. To book a consultation with Jason, click here. <<