A Prospect’s Pain Point: An Inconvenience or a Problem?

An excerpt from “Sell Different!” by Lee B. Salz

Just about every sales book ever written preaches the importance of salespeople finding pain and challenges that prospects are experiencing during discovery. When salespeople hear their challenges, they start licking their chops because they believe the door has opened to their solution. Unfortunately, many of them become disappointed when their deals never advance past the initial conversation. 

What’s the reason for these stalled deals? Salespeople haven’t asked enough questions to determine if the pain they have uncovered is an “inconvenience” or a “problem” for the prospect. Those two words are not synonymous. 

An inconvenience is merely an annoyance. It’s bothersome. In our everyday lives, we all encounter these hassles. However, we don’t do anything about them. We live with them until an issue elevates to the level of a problem. This is important to remember. Just because the issue causes a headache doesn’t mean prospects will take action to address it. Actually, few will do anything about inconveniences.

Prospects take action when they encounter a problem. When this happens, they recognize that immediate action needs to be taken to address it. The search for solutions has begun. Prospects will invest time, resources, and dollars to solve a problem, but not necessarily an inconvenience. 

Problems correlate with solutions. We never associate an inconvenience with a solution.

Here’s where many salespeople get stuck. They don’t ask deep, insightful questions to determine if the shared challenge is something the prospect can either live with or is ready to address. If you don’t definitively know the answer to that question, ask questions to understand their perspective on the issue.

Sometimes, salespeople see issues as problems when their prospects only perceive them as inconveniences. This is an important opportunity salespeople have to create energy in their deals. Through effective questioning, salespeople can lead prospects to see the issue as a problem, create a sense of urgency to address it, and motivate them to act on it.

Also, the prospect you are speaking with may feel an issue is a problem, but their colleagues and superiors don’t perceive it that way. How do you know if the other stakeholders feel the same way? Ask! Ask if others in the organization feel the same way they do about the issue. For example, you could ask: “Do your colleagues view this issue as an inconvenience or a problem?” That question will be met by a brief silence as they consider how others feel. Then they will share their perspective. 

This issue frequently arises when calling on middle management. Oftentimes, they will perceive an issue as a problem, but senior management sees it as an inconvenience. In those instances, the deal goes nowhere unless the salesperson coaches middle management on ways to help senior management see the issue through the same lens.

Bottom line, for every identified pain point, salespeople need to probe to determine if it is perceived as a problem or an inconvenience.

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