It is vital for B2B sales representatives to deliver value to prospective customers during any sales interaction. Understanding the pains and needs of prospects, based on the industry they represent and the role they hold in the organization, allows sales pros to speak directly to the pain by providing a solution.
Executive buyers believe only 8% of salespersons are focused on driving a “valuable” end result for the buyer – Forrester Research
1) The first step to discovering prospect pain is listening—a trait many B2B sales representatives are not known for and not equipped with the skills to do.
Because of the customized and personal way B2C sales transactions are taking place today; B2B prospects are now looking for a comparable level of individual attention in their B2B transactions.
Forward-thinking organizations are engaging buyers directly, enabling them to: gain a better understanding of the top-of-mind challenges buyers are currently facing, determine how they will address those issues and, ultimately, identify the ideal solution to the pain.
For example, OKI Data, an award-winning manufacturer of printers, regularly conducts a “pulse program” with not only their existing customers, but with prospective decision makers that align to their ideal buyer profile. This practice has helped OKI more effectively align their marketing campaigns, messaging and even sales process to the journey of their buying audiences.
Another business directly engaging its buyers is Accel-KKR (AKKR), a leading, technology-focused private equity firm. Just last month they hosted a summit for more than 50 of the marketing and sales leaders from their operating companies, creating the opportunity for them to exchange leading practices and network with one another. An impactful portion the 2-day summit was a buyer panel that explored the buying journey directly from selected decision makers’ perspective. This enabled AKKR’s operating companies to gain valuable insight into the key challenges/pains today’s decision makers are facing, common attributes of the buying cycle for solutions and leading practices for how sales professionals can engage them effectively. The operating company executives discussed for the remainder of the summit the lessons learned from just listening to the buyers.
You may not think your company has the budget to host a panel with customers and/or prospects. Ironically, you cannot afford not to. Why? Because the likelihood that you will refine your go-to-market strategy based on the insight is 100%. The cost of not implementing the necessary adjustments before you invest in campaign execution, or, more crucially, sales cycle meetings with an ineffective message – neither of which resonate with the pains of your buying audiences—is far too high.
Listen. Analyze. Deliver. Repeat. This is how loyalty is created.
2) The second step to discovering prospect pains is asking insightful questions. Here are three “I”s to help you:
- Identify the issues: Ask engaging questions during business development, prospecting and discovery meetings to help the customer discover which pains/needs are truly critical to achieve their objectives.
- Intensify the pain: Magnify existing pains to help motivate the prospect to take action on their own behalf and for their own success. They need to realize the cost of NOT taking action.
- Internalize the pain: Help customers understand how the solution will help them succeed personally. They need to take ownership and starts with what they personally can garner.
Sales and marketing need to help customers move forward by proving the status quo is no longer acceptable, and is actually more costly than the purchase/solution. In essence, the buyer has to answer (both logically and emotionally) the questions “Why do something?” and “Why do something now?” Even when customers are able to see the value of a purchase, they often still fail to act because the risk of change overwhelms them. It is important to continue to remind the customer of the current pain, and how the solution will be the cure (if they embrace the opportunity to change).
Effective B2B sales representatives need to assist their prospects with relevant industry knowledge, customer examples and domain expertise. This will in turn empower them to understand what is possible if they take appropriate action in a timely manner, and potentially more importantly, what the cost is of not taking any action.
Listening and asking insightful questions takes TIME and INVESTMENT, but guarantees results. Taking the time to discover the customer’s pains will truly allow sales pros to provide desired solutions.