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There’s a famous quote in sales: “Sell the problem you solve, not the product.” 

What this quote is saying is that a prospect is much more likely to buy when you’ve identified a need for your product than if you simply focus on the features of what you’re offering. Of course, features, price, and many other factors do play a part in people’s decision making process. But at its core, a buying decision is based on solving a need.

Your job as a salesperson is to accurately identify that need, which can be referred to as a prospect’s pain points. But how can you figure out what those pain points are and which ones are going to be the most compelling? There are certain ways to do this effectively. We’ve come up with the following six ways to find your prospect’s biggest pain points to help you on your next sale:

1. Listen

There is a reason why every sales leader worth his or her salt will tell you that listening is the most valuable skill there is in sales. If you listen carefully to what a prospect says to you, they’ll tell you exactly what their pain points are. They are also likely to allude to how important each one of them is.

This means you need to be an active listener, and not just sit there and let the prospect speak while thinking about what you’re going to say next. It also helps to get in the habit of taking notes, since it can be very difficult to remember exactly what’s important while engaged in a conversation. Listen and write down exactly what the prospect says they’re looking for and why they’re looking for it. That’s the key.

2. Ask the right questions

Since every industry is different, there isn’t one uniform set of questions that salespeople can ask to discover their prospect’s pain points. Trite questions like, “What keeps you up at night,” are likely to just annoy the prospect. (My neighbor’s car alarm usually does).

Instead, get in the habit of asking targeted, open-ended questions. Then let the prospect speak while paying close attention to their answers. Avoid leading with yes or no questions, and instead ask topical questions that serve as an invitation for a prospect to tell you what they really think. For example, instead of asking, “Do you like this new email software?” ask, “What do you think about this new email software?” It’s a slight tweak to the question, but it can make a big difference.

3. Avoid assumptions

Assuming that you already know a prospect’s pain points can be a big mistake. As humans with experiences and our own opinions and prejudices, it can be difficult to separate what we know and what we think we know from reality. This is especially true in sales, where everybody has a story about the prospect who everybody ignored because they didn’t look like a buyer who then ended up making the biggest purchase in the company’s history.

Similarly, you should never make assumptions about a prospect’s pain points. Everybody has different motivations and different things that they value, and it’s nearly impossible to guess without going through the process and listening to what a prospect tells you. Remember, your job is to find out what they want, and then tailor your solution accordingly.

4. Research

You’re probably rolling your eyes. You didn’t go into sales to do research like you had to in high school or in college, right? Well a little bit of work up front can pay dividends with a prospect. Read more about the prospect’s business and see what you can find. Even reading their reviews can be helpful. This can apply to consumers too, since lots of people have a social media presence that you can look up and possibly find something useful (just be careful not to come off as a stalker if you do end up using something you find).

If you’re selling B2B, make sure you also take the time to research macro industry trends, as these can be invaluable to help identify what kinds of changes a prospect’s industry is going through and how you can help them solve their challenges.

Remember, a prospect’s pain points are the best “roadmap” that you will have on how to close the deal. Some sales trainers even recommend listing all of the pain points you can identify and then reading the solutions to them back to your prospect in ascending order during your sales pitch, building up the value of your solution along the way. No matter how you frame it, make sure that you’ve spent the time to figure out a prospect’s needs up front and you’ll be in a significantly better position to close the deal.

And, if you want to make more sales in general, try Spiro’s proactive relationship management platform!

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About the Author Ken Kupchik

Ken Kupchik is the creator of Sales Humor and the author of the funniest sales book ever written, The Sales Survival Handbook, which you can order on Amazon.com. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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