No matter what industry you’re in, your products and services are designed to provide solutions to the problems your customers face. So why is it that so many of these carefully designed solutions fail to resonate with the target audience? Perhaps it’s because we aren’t spending time on the first step of pain point discovery.
The truth is, sometimes our expertise comes back to bite us. We’re so busy playing doctor, confident in our ability to relieve perceived pain points, that we never bother to ask the patient where it actually hurts.
To provide true value to your customers, you have to start by asking the right questions. Here are some recommendations to streamline your pain point discovery and get more out of your conversations.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Whether you realize it or not, your preconceived notions influence your interaction with clients. For example, if you come in thinking your client’s primary pain is poor time management you may ask questions differently, inadvertently leading the conversation. As a result, you won’t gather new information or insight into where your client could actually use your assistance.
Ask the Right Questions
Unfortunately, there’s no magic set of questions designed to make pain point discovery the same across all industries. The types of questions you ask will vary by business, target audience and individual. Every conversation is different.
What you can do, however, is get into the habit of asking focused, open-ended questions. These are not only perfect conversation starters, but they also allow for a more open and mutually beneficial discussion. Consider the differences in the following real estate examples:
- Leading question: “Don’t you just love the Victorian style?”
- Open-ended question: “What do you think of the property?”
The first question not only limits the conversation to Victorian homes but also exposes how you feel about them and how you expect the client to respond. If you really want to focus the discussion on Victorian style homes, try a more neutral question, like “How do you feel about Victorian homes?”
The second question shows no bias. It allows the client to comment on the property as a whole and pinpoint specific likes and dislikes. For example, the client may be thrilled with the curbside appeal but not so much with the limited closet space.
By leaving the question open-ended, you create an opportunity for learning. Therefore, clients are able to think and converse more freely, and they often learn as much from the discussion as you do, identifying pain points they didn’t even realize existed. This helps create a sense of urgency and a willingness to accept your expert advice.
In everyday conversation, it’s not uncommon for friends to interrupt one another with random thoughts or related stories. It’s how we make connections. But when you’re trying to discover a customer’s pain points, interrupting is counterproductive.
Instead, actively listen to what the client is telling you. Make your connection by asking insightful follow-up questions. The more you engage and show you care about the problem, the more your client will be willing to share — and the more you’ll learn.
After peeling back the layers, you may discover that you have experience and insight that will prove valuable to the customer — information that you wouldn’t have thought to share initially. You may find that the source of the client’s pain is actually in perfect alignment with one of your product offerings.
Find the Common Thread
While certain problems will prove unique to specific clients, many will be more universal. As you identify these trends, you can adjust your marketing strategies and re-evaluate product offerings to address these common pain points and make customers happier across the board.
Try These Suggestions
Now let’s look at a few general examples of open-ended questions you can tweak and use for pain point discovery in any industry. We’ve also included a marketing-specific answer for each question to give you an idea of how one of these conversations might go.
1. “What is the biggest challenge you’re currently facing?”
This is a conversation starter, a question that just scratches the surface of the pain as the client feels it. It’s designed to get the client talking. You don’t know exactly where the conversation will go, but you know you’re going to learn something new.
Example answer: “We’ve recently discovered several online reviews badmouthing our company and we’re not sure how to handle it.”
2. “What happens if the pain is left unchecked?”
Once you’ve identified a pain point, it helps to know what kind of havoc it’s wreaking on the customer. Is it costing them time and money on the job or just putting a damper on their online reputation?
This type of question helps you assess the risks of doing nothing against the benefits of making a change. It also gives insight into the client’s motivations for wanting to make changes.
Example answer: “We get a lot of business through word-of-mouth online, and we don’t want these reviews to cost us customers.”
3. “What has prevented you from relieving the pain thus far?”
This question not only helps you identify the potential obstacles a client is facing, but also the past and present solutions they’ve used to address the problem. If they’ve tried other solutions, you have an opportunity to follow up and ask about those experiences, what went wrong and what the client would have changed. Knowing the history can help you pinpoint a better alternative.
Example answer: “Honestly, we don’t know anything about online reviews, so we’re stuck for now.”
4. “What should putting a new system in place do to solve the problem?”
You may have the perfect solution to the client’s problem, but if their expectations aren’t realistic, they may never be happy with the results. This question is about gauging and setting expectations.
5. “We’ve found that X is a common source of pain for our customers. How do you feel about it?”
Some people have a problem with pain point discovery, and they could use your guidance. This type of question helps by providing a frame of reference for the client. You’re not trying to sell them anything or lead them to a specific topic. Instead, you’re offering up a topic of conversation and allowing them to open up about their own specific problems in relation to a known pain point.
Example answer: “We’re getting the hang of social media. Our content gets a response. It’s just hard finding time for it each week.”
Shift Your Pain Point Discovery Strategy
If you really want to make your customers happy, don’t pitch solutions based on guesswork. Take the time to talk to prospects and clients, ask open-ended questions and actively listen to the responses. By focusing on pain point discovery, you’ll learn more and your product will improve.
Most of all, remember to tweak your marketing strategy once those pain points have been revealed. If you need help, you know where to find us!