What happens when a prospect finally starts hinting their company has an opportunity or problem that fits with your solution? Should you take this as a sign that all the stars have finally aligned and it’s time for you to go in for the close?
Not so fast. One crucial thing to remember when qualifying prospects are that pain doesn’t always translate to a need. From the classic BANT system to CHAMP Method and to a more recent buyer persona-based segmentation, pain points always form the backbone of any sales conversation. But pain points come in different levels of priority, i.e., some feel more painful (and therefore more urgent) than others. Effective sales conversations take these differences into account so that sales reps can help potential buyers arrive at the right decision.
If anything, a prospect’s acknowledgment of a pain point simply means the lead wants to explore the issue further. Jumping into sales mode now risks putting the lead off by misaligning with their priorities. That’s why selling high-value solutions to complex B2B buyers often progress through three different levels of prospect pain. These levels correspond to increasing degrees of severity or urgency that your prospect feels as a result of experiencing the issue.
Each level requires distinct strategies for structuring your conversations with prospects. The main goal is to help buyers identify, quantify, and clarify that single most urgent thing that’s bogging them down. This lets you determine whether or not the prospect’s situation is painful enough to warrant choosing your solution over the status quo.
Level 1: Technical Need
Business pain points often start out as minor irritations, and a great majority of them stay that way without prompting immediate resolution. Here, prospects admit there’s something wrong but feel the consequences warrant nothing more than a little bit of curiosity. This is probably the type of pain a prospect feels when first acknowledging an issue.
Some key talking points relevant to prospects with technical pain include:
- The biggest challenge they’re facing in a specific business area or process
- Some overview about these problems or opportunities
- Background information such as what first drew their attention to the issue
- Any previous attempts at resolving or addressing the problem and its results
Clearly, none of these ideas leave any room for prescribing your solution. These talking points are designed to help you and your prospect learn more about the issue. Typically, technical pains are symptoms of a problem and not the problem itself. Learn The Little Known Art of Exploiting Unhappy B2B Prospects
Level 2: Business Impact
When potential buyers are able to clearly specify and quantify how an issue impacts a particular business area or process, this means that they no longer see the problem as a minor inconvenience. They’ve already put the effort and resources to find a solution or even to evaluate possible alternatives.
Business impact includes financial costs, lost productivity, operational inefficiencies, and other consequences resulting from the unresolved issue. Sales conversations with prospects experiencing this pain point level should focus on:
- Overall quantifiable impact to the business
- Direct and indirect as well as short- and long-term consequences of the problem
- Stakeholders affected by the issue
- Tactical and strategic implications of the problem
- The cost of inaction and the business case for change
Leads who feel the business impact of unsolved problems or unmet challenges are usually way past the awareness stage of the buying cycle and are well in the consideration phase. This is the stage where 60% of prospects want to connect with sales reps, after doing their research and narrowing down their options. So, take advantage of this opportunity to help leads make informed buying decisions.
Level 3: Personal Impact
Both business and personal reasons drive B2B buying decisions. The choices that B2B buyers make also depend, to a large degree, on personal desires and emotional factors. That’s why personal impact turns critical business pain points into urgent needs, and urgent need turn leads into customers.
Sales conversations that reveal and explore personal impact emphasize the following points:
- The issue’s impact on the prospect and his personal performance
- How the issue possibly impacts the prospect’s personal life
- Both visible and invisible consequences of the issue
- Additional perspectives on the do-nothing-vs-change question
- Other persons directly affected by the prospect’s action or inaction
By tying back how the problem impacts the prospect, the sales conversation goes from abstract topics to something more concrete.
Leveraging prospect pain points during sales conversations isn’t about deliberately manipulating how prospects feel. It’s about helping them gain a fuller understanding of the problem and pointing them to a potential solution. If prospects avoid these sorts of talking points during sales conversations, this can imply that you’re talking to the wrong decision-maker, or the issue isn’t (yet) painful enough to warrant action. Either way, you gain a better understanding of your target prospect by focusing on pain points.
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