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Pain Point Discovery: It’s All About Asking the Right Questions

Erin Myers
May 10, 2022
pain point discovery

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? Maybe it’s because we aren’t spending time on what should be the first step: pain point discovery.

What are pain points?

To put it simply, pain points are problems. They’re the daily thorns in your customer’s side, and they can range from small frustrations to huge, complex challenges. But pain points are also opportunities, because they tell you exactly what your customer or prospect needs most.

But 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, start by asking the right questions. Here are some recommendations to streamline your pain point discovery progress and get more out of your conversations.

Avoid Assumptions

Whether you realize it or not, your preconceived notions influence your interaction with clients. For example, if you assume your client’s primary pain point 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 curb appeal while being disappointed 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.

Actively Listen

pain point discoveryIn 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.

Rather than talking, 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, adjust your marketing strategies and re-evaluate product offerings to address these common pain points and make customers happier across the board.

Try These Example Questions

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.

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 or just distracting them from other things?

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.

3. “What has prevented you from relieving the pain?”

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.

4. “How would putting a new system in place 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. They may have gotten so used to dealing with pain, they don’t feel it the same way anymore. 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 unique problems in relation to a known pain point.

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!


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Last Updated: February 2019; Originally Published: July 2017.

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