People don’t change unless there is pain. Pain is the impetus for change. Your prospects are complacent, very busy and resistant to change. You can’t blame them because of priorities. Why should I go through the trouble of researching, fighting for budget money, see vendor presentations, read quotes, and make more work for myself when I don’t have to?
People only change when the cost of staying is greater than the cost of changing. You change jobs when the cost of staying (e.g. the pain of putting up with a manager, making due with less money. etc.) is greater than the cost of going on a job search, moving to a new job location, etc. Some people change spouses when the pain of staying with the current one every single day become unbearable.
That means that in sales and marketing, you have to find your customer’s pain points. You have to think like a doctor and treat him or her as a patient – basically do a patient diagnosis.
(Drug companies run the best diagnostic selling advertisements: “Are you experimenting frequent sadness?, Embarrassed by your middle finger involuntarily pointing up on its own?, Craving a gallon of ice cream?, Waking up in a cold sweat? If so, you could have Imadeauppiosis! Speak with your doctor. We may be able to help.”)
What happens when a doctor sees a patient? The doctor asks questions to:
1. Understand and pin down where the pain(s) are
2. How great and serious is the pain
3. Find out what else is affected by the pain
4. Pinpoint the possible causes and origins of the pain
5. Determine how to treat the pain
6. Get patient buy-in on the pain treatment plan
The questions can be general (referred to as “open probe”) or specific (“closed probe”).
Open Probe questions allow the customer to provide broad information. Some good open probes are:
1. What keeps you up at night about XXX? (Trying to find the pain.)
2. Where do you think the bottlenecks are? (Trying to find the pain.)
3. Where are the sources of error? (Trying to find the pain.)
4. If there was something you wish you could change, what would that be? (Trying to find the pain.)
5. How much do you think that costs you in time or money? (Trying to gage the pain and see if it is enough to make a change.)
6. Can you draw the process map for your operation? (You need to understand and be intimate with the customer’s point of view, work flow, and know who he or she interacts with to know where your product fits in and what/where it provides a solution.)
7. Why is that important to you? (I love this one because many product managers panic when asked about a feature that their products do not have. Some customers simply ask out of curiosity or have a need that could be addressed in a different manner.)
Closed Probe questions usually aim for a “Yes” or ”No” answer, based on your understanding of the customer and information gathered. These typically include a “Do, Does, Has, Have Which, Are”:
1. Are you planning for upgrades to a Cloud?
2. Is password security necessary?
3. Is turnover causing training problems?
4. Have you experienced input errors during the XXX step?
5. Would eliminating the need to do YYY be a good thing?
So always look for the “pain” for your customer and prospect by asking questions. You get their interest if the pain is serious enough for change. You get the order if you can remove the pain. This form of customer diagnosis is also excellent for learning about customer needs. Voice of the Customer, and innovation discovery.
Jeff Thull, President of Prime Solutions enlightened me to the concept many years ago.