Finding a customer’s pain isn’t the solution

Many sales managers and sales trainers focus on finding the customer pain points. If all you’ve ever done in your life is sales, this makes complete sense. If you’ve done any bit of consulting, you know that it’s not about the pain points, but rather, where the pain points really stem from.

There’s that old adageĀ a woman comes to a man and is going through a tough time, the man wants to fix the problem, but in the end all the woman wants is for the man to listen to the problem and be supportive.

Sales executives are trying to fix the problem without listening to determine if they can actually fix the problem.

To provide real value is to listen to the entire problem and have enough experience to determine if your solution is the proper fit, or if the solution will not solve a deeper pain point that exisits internally in the company.

There isn’t one company that runs as efficiently as possible, for this reason, pain points emerge when the people behind the companies do not follow through with their responsibilities or lack the requisite knowledge to succeed. To counteract these feelings of pain, they search for remedies outside their internal structures by the way of software or other products to keep them organized. These function as band-aids.

In the world of startups where the average age of an account executive is often less than 30 with minimal real world experience, they’re ability to know, understand, and diagnose your pain is always going to be a bit of a hope, wish, and a dream.

In a world where quota determines your success, not long term clients, the incentives for most sales representatives are off.

It is better for a sales representative to convince a company of a pain they did not think of, talked a lot by the Challenger Sale Model, the idea that there is a cost to doing nothing, and then sell them a solution.

I hate this notion. Here’s why:

  1. Unless you work at a company for a prolonged period of time with unfettered access to all levels of employees, you cannot accurately understand the company dynamics and the internal workings of such company
  2. There is a reason they haven’t done anything about the “pain” before, it’s not viewed as being “big enough”
  3. Massive change comes at the most volitile times in a businesses life – watch an episode of bar or kitchen rescue – but 90% of those businesses go back to their same habits from before “experts” came in to fix things, and they had real pain too.
  4. When a pain does get big enough, it becomes the only thing visible, the underlying causes that allowed it to get big, are rarely addressed
  5. People hate being told what to do from outsiders

There was a phrase I used to say a lot while on calls with clients, “Your next step is a business decision that I don’t have the knowledge to advise you on. I’ve never been to your office, I don’t know your personal situation, I can’t provide that advice to you.”

I focused on being there to help make a product decision, not a business one. My clients respected me for that, I wasn’t fooling them into buying a product that would solve all their problems, I was providing them with knowledge and use cases for a product. I was an off-site consultant filling a potential void in their current business software. But I was never in it for the quick close and churn.

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