No pain, no gain: Customer pain points for B2B sales
Having a quality product is great. But if you’re missing out on customer pain points in sales and marketing communication, you’ll end up with less satisfied customers and higher churn rates.
So, how well do you understand your customers? The answer might be less than you think: according to a study by IBM, 4 out of 5 consumers feel that brands don’t understand them as individuals.
Which might be why only 12% of people will actually believe you when you say you put customers first.
So, how can salespeople prove they really understand common customer pain points? How can you enable your revenue teams to understand and address these pain points when talking to prospects?
In this guide, we’re going to discuss:
- What are customer pain points?
- Types of customer pain points
- 9 ways to find your B2B customers’ pain points
- How to use your understanding of pain points
By the end of this article, you’ll be an expert in understanding (and solving!) your customers’ biggest pain points.
What are customer pain points?
Before you can give them a solution, though, you need to have a clear understanding of your customers’ problems.
Understanding and empathy in sales are key to improving the customer experience people associate with your brand. According to the Global Empathy Index study, the top 10 companies ranked as most empathetic (both internally and externally) had increased their value more than twice as much as the bottom 10, and generated 50% more in profits during the year.
In other words, when you understand and empathize with your customers’ pain points, you’ll be better equipped to provide them with an extraordinary user experience. This leads to better deals, more sales, and higher revenue.
So, what are the main types of customer pain points, and how can you identify them?
Types of customer pain points
In the most basic terms, there are four items that regularly cause your customers pain in different ways:
Depending on why the pain point exists, you’ll have two options to solve it: with your sales process, or with your product.
Let’s look at different examples of each type of customer pain point, and how you can solve them.
Financial pain points
Your customers are spending too much money on their current solution. Maybe they’ve been paying for surprise add-ons that weren’t included in the original pricing. Maybe they got a big discount for the first few months or year, and now their subscription price is about to jump. Or, maybe they’ve just been hit with a crisis that’s making them tighten their belts.
Financial pain points are sensitive issues. Especially when a crisis hits, your customers may feel backed into a corner with no clear way out. How you treat your prospects at this stage will affect their view of your business going forward.
Productivity pain points
The current tool stack is acting as a barrier to productivity for your customers. They’re frustrated by the repetitive tasks they have to do manually day in and day out, and the time they waste doing so. Use your sales messaging to prove how your product makes their jobs easier.
Or, maybe your customers are facing an unproductive buying journey. They’re trapped in research and can’t make their way to a clear decision. In this case, they need a productive path to purchase that is streamlined, making it easier for them to go from research to interest to purchase.
Process pain points
Your potential customers may want to improve their internal processes and upgrade their business. But, they’re stuck in outdated processes because their tech stack is built that way and can’t be easily changed.
The reason for this kind of pain point will change from business to business, but here are some examples:
- A sales team is stuck inside an outdated and ineffective sales process because their CRM is difficult to customize and update
- Projects often go longer than expected at a company because the project management software they’re using doesn’t give a clear picture of where each task fits into the overall timeline
- A company that works with a marketing agency is seeing a dip in new inbound leads because their process for implementing the marketing agency’s ideas and help is slow and inefficient
In each of these cases, your product or service is the solution to the pain point.
Support pain points
Customers who aren’t well supported during and after the purchase will quickly churn.
For example, if your prospects are facing support issues with their current provider, the level of support your company offers can set you apart.
On the other hand, your customers may be facing support issues during their decision-making process. Are you supporting new leads and prospects at each stage of the buyer journey? How do they do research on your product? Is there an easy way for them to have their questions answered?
By identifying where and when your customers need support, you’ll be in a better position to offer it (and solve this pain point).
9 ways to find your B2B customers' pain points
In many ways, salespeople are like doctors: you need to diagnose the cause of the pain before you can prescribe an appropriate solution.
So, how can you hone in on what’s actually causing problems for your customers? Let’s discuss 9 specific steps you can take to learn more about your customers’ pain points.
1. Do customer research that doesn’t rely on sales metrics
Don’t get me wrong: sales metrics can tell you a lot about your prospects and customers. But not everything.
That’s why real customer research must involve having real, honest conversations with customers. This is qualitative research that digs deeper than what metrics like usage, conversion rates, or revenue can tell you.
So, talk to your customers. Ask them the right questions to get them talking. Take note, not only of the pain points they’re facing in their business, but also the root cause of those struggles.
Here are some open-ended questions you can use to get your customers talking:
- Talk me through some of the challenges you’re looking to solve right now.
- Can you walk me through your process for…
- Can you give me an example of…
- In an ideal world, what should this process look like? What would you need to accomplish that?
- Why are these challenges a priority for you?
- How does this issue affect the team? The company? You personally?
- How has your company been affected by changes in the economy or other industry-specific changes?
- If budget wasn’t an issue, what’s the first change you would make?
- How do seasonal changes affect [main pain point]?
After each question, try to keep asking follow-up questions until you get to the root cause of any challenge or issues the customer is facing.
By speaking both with your current customers and others within the industry, you can get real, on-the-ground information from the people who matter.
2. Learn from your customer support
Your support team is in direct contact with customers every day. Plus, it’s their job to deal with the challenges your customers are facing. That means they probably have some unique insights into the pain points that affect your customers the most.
So, lean on your support team for information. If you’re a sales leader, meet with the support team leader on a regular basis to hear what common tickets are coming in, what pain points customers are facing in the industry, and brainstorm ways to solve these issues.
3. Spend time collecting (and implementing) real customer feedback
Go beyond asking for general insights on pain points and dig into the specific complaints or ideas that customers have about your product or service. This will not only give you a clearer view of pain points that can be solved by the company but will also build trust and loyalty with your customer base.
In a study by Microsoft, 77% of respondents said they have a more favorable view of brands that ask for and accept customer feedback.
Real feedback can give you ideas for product updates, or updates to your sales process or marketing strategy.
4. Peruse online reviews for competing products
If you’re looking for people griping about their current business pains, look no further than real customer reviews.
Which features are causing them issues? Where are they experiencing friction with the product? What processes are slow or inefficient? What’s missing from the competition that you can offer to customers?
These reviews will give you clear insights into industry trends and pain points, as well as the specific language your target audience uses to describe their issues.
5. See what’s being said on social media in your industry
Another great source of raw insights is social media. Both Twitter and LinkedIn allow you to perform narrow searches for content that fits what you’re looking for.
On Twitter, you can use the Topics section to follow top tweets on relevant industry topics. Peruse these top tweets to see what pain points your industry is describing, as well as ideas or solutions added in the following comments from other users.
You can also use social media to make real connections with people in your target market. For example, use LinkedIn’s advanced search features to connect with people who fit your ideal customer profile. Instead of trying to ‘sell’ them, ask if you can set up an interview with them. Ask the same questions you did while conducting customer research, and gain more insights into the industry pain points.
6. Use chatbots to validate your idea of top pain points
If you’ve been following the steps above, you probably have some pretty clear pain points in your mind already.
Now, it’s time to put your hypothesis to the test.
A chatbot is an interesting tool to validate ideas about your market, since it’s automated on your website and will give you quick insights without effort.
Start by choosing a few pages on your website where buyers are likely to be in the consideration stage (this might be a product, feature, or pricing plans page).
Next, pick your top three pain points, and turn them into a multiple-choice question for your leads to answer. Something like:
“What’s the main problem you’re looking to solve? A, B, or C?”
7. Engage in real-time with customers using live chat
Still don’t have a solid hypothesis yet? Chat can still help, but in this case, you’ll want to run this manually.
Having live chat on your website allows your team to interact directly with new leads and prospects as they’re browsing their website. Engage with them on targeted pages in real-time, ask them the same open-ended questions we mentioned above, and you’ll gain some valuable insights. Companies like Elluminatiinc.com are using live chat to engage with website visitors in real-time, and generate more high-quality sales leads.
8. Talk to your marketing team
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “Marketing? But they don’t even talk to customers as much as we do on the sales team.”
True. But you know what marketers do a ton of? Research. Your marketing team spends hours every week digging into buying signals, understanding trending industry topics, learning—and writing—about what’s happening in your customers’ world.
So while they may be one step farther removed from customers than your sales team, they can present you with a different perspective on the market, along with interesting insights.
9. Brainstorm with your sales team
This final step is valuable for all sales managers. Your sales team is on the frontlines, speaking with prospects and leads, working daily to understand their needs and deliver a solution.
Especially valuable is the insights learned during discovery and qualification. In these early stages of the sales process, your reps are asking discovery questions, learning about prospect needs and pain points, and identifying the root causes to provide them with a solution.
Gather your team on a regular basis to talk about the common challenges they’re hearing about from prospects, and you’ll always have a current pulse on the most important pain points.
With these strategies, you’ve seen how to research customer pain points with real, qualitative information, as well as keep your team up-to-date on today’s biggest challenges in the market.
Now, what do you do with this information?
How to use your understanding of pain points
It’s time to turn those customer pain points into an improved customer experience all around. How can B2B sales and marketing teams bring this understanding into their daily work?
Adjust your sales process to focus on customer needs
When your sales process is aligned to the way your customers prefer to buy, you’ll be in a better position to solve their pain points from the first moment they interact with you.
For example, how do prospects prefer to learn about your product? Do they want to browse case studies, research features on your website? Do they want to try out your product themselves? Do they want a video walkthrough? Would they prefer to interact with your team on social media? Or do they crave the personal interaction of a phone call with your sales team?
What about the buying process? Do they feel informed about their options for pricing plans? Are they satisfied with the answers you give them? Do they want more meetings with your sales team to hash out details, or would they prefer to see their questions answered with a quick Loom video?
Know your customer’s pain points during the purchase process, and adjust how you sell to meet them where they are (not where you want them to be).
Bring real pain points into sales conversations
When your sales team has intimate, first-hand knowledge about the industry or market they’re selling to, they can easily bring those pain points into every sales conversation.
Your sales pitch should identify a common problem in a way that tells your prospect, “Hey, I’m part of your secret club, and I get you.”
For example, if you’re selling sales software, don’t talk about how your product can level-up productivity for their sales team. Talk to them about how much they hate nagging their reps to update the CRM, and how they’ll never have to nag again if they switch to your product.
Use the everyday language of your market and audience to build a sales pitch that works like a conversation between peers rather than a monologue from an outsider.
Use content marketing to address these needs
A great way to prove you understand your customers is by giving them valuable information that can help them solve their pain points.
Best case, this content will also point them towards purchasing your product, but don’t think of that as the only goal for your content. Use content marketing to talk about what’s happening in the industry and provide real value to the reader without asking for anything in return.
When you create content that addresses a specific problem and shows a solution, you’ll prove you know what your audience needs. A study by the Content Marketing Institute found that the most important content reviewed while making a purchase decision included information about their specific needs and pain points.
Photo credit: Content Marketing Institute
Another way to use content in your favor is to build specific customer testimonials. Remember those conversations you were having with customers above? Record those conversations with customers and have them describe the pain point they were facing, and how your product solved it.
Update your marketing strategy to show you understand your audience
It’s not enough to tell your audience, “We get you.” It’s time to prove it.
First, remove vague language from your marketing copy. We’ve all heard about products that are innovative, simple, state of the art, unbeatable, essential, or tailored. Those words have essentially lost all meaning.
Instead, use the research you did above to discover the language that your market is using to describe their pain points. Then, use that in your marketing copy.
Take Close.com as an example: simple language highlights the major pain points we’re looking to solve.
Next, frame your new feature launches around the key pain points they solve. Whenever you’re about to write a new announcement post on the company blog, resist the temptation to start with: “We’re pleased to announce that…”
Instead, go back to your list of main pain points, and think about how this new feature relates to those. Add specific examples of how this new feature solves common challenges.
By focusing on pain points in your sales and marketing strategy, you’ll create consistent messaging that’s real and relevant to your customers.
Without pain, we would have nothing
I'm paraphrasing Tyler Durden here, but it’s true: If our prospects didn’t feel any pain, we'd have very little. Most prospective customers buy because there's a pain they want to relieve, whether it's financial, productivity, support, or process pain.
Now it’s time for your own self-analysis:
- Are you doing regular customer research that involves actually talking to customers?
- How well do you understand the language your customers use to describe major pain points?
- Are you showing (not just telling) your customers that you get their business pain and are ready to help?
Maximizing your understanding of customer pain points is a surefire way to improve the experience they have with your brand.
Want to learn how to gain a deep understanding of your prospects' pain points that converts them into paying customers with less effort? Download your free copy of my book Talk To Your Customers!