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Dealing with the Pain Points: The right way to identify your customers’ needs

07 Apr

pain pointsIn my line of work, I’m often brought on board to deal with pain. Let me clarify this a bit further. I help my clients identify the pain points of their business as it pertains to communication. I also help them identify the pain points of their target audience so we know how to better connect with them. And even with years of experience now under my belt, this task has become no easier than the very first time I learned about the abstract concept of pain points – mostly due to the fact that every client is different, and so is their pain.

Uncovering a client or customer’s pain points shouldn’t inflict them with more pain. Which is why we can’t overlook the fact there are right ways – and some very wrong ways – to go about this process. I’m willing to bet many of you have been subjected to the wrong way at least once, even if you didn’t realize it at the time. This is the salesperson who tells YOU what your pain is, before really getting to know you or your needs. This is the business advisor who offers no insight and simply asks you to tell him what your biggest pain points are as he jots them down with a nod and smile.

So what’s the right way to identify your customers’ needs? Here are four snippets of wisdom I’ve compiled after talking with fellow communications professionals and business owners. Across the board, these are the key concepts you need to keep in mind whether you’re identifying your own pain points or the pain points of your target audience.

Make it a discussion

Clients and customers just want to be heard, especially when it comes to understanding their greatest pains. Don’t walk into a meeting with a list of predetermined pain points to sell them. Instead, start a conversation. Get to know more about them, their business and their needs. As the conversation progresses, you’ll gain a better understanding of the pain points they share with fellow businesses in the industry as well as pain points that are completely unique to them.

In an effort to start a discussion, don’t go to the other extreme of making them do all the talking either. Sure, ask questions, but don’t drop a bomb like “What are all your biggest pain points right now?” First, you can’t assume your client even really knows what a pain point is. Second, you’re likely to turn a nice conversation into an interrogation with a loaded question like that. Let them talk and then offer insight. You know, like a dialogue?

Share your experience

Once you’ve started a pleasant discussion and gained a foundation for understanding their needs, it’s time to offer some valuable input. Given things have progressed in the direction you anticipated, you can refer to some information you’ve prepared in advance. For example, this could be a slide or printout of what you have found to be common pain points within their industry – shared by other professionals with whom you’ve worked. Guide them with your experience, but acknowledge and respect the fact that every business is unique and so are their pains.

Peel back the onion

What many perceive to be their pain points is only the first layer. This is where your expertise becomes so valuable! Don’t take what your clients or customers identify as their pain points to be the final answer. Ask more questions to gain a deeper understanding and even challenge some of the points, if you feel necessary. Your goal should be to expand your clients’ understanding of their business’s needs or customers’ pains. You need to be the mirror that allows them to see their blind spots – this is where you add value to the process.

Keep it reasonable

Some strategies aim to amplify pain points and blow them out of proportion. I find that this comes across both dramatic and cheesy – and at the end of the day, makes YOU look less professional. Make your pain points both real and relatable. For example, if you choose to incorporate your pain points on your website, you want them to ask rhetorical questions that almost everyone in your target audience can answer with a resounding “Yes!” They should be general enough to relate to the vast majority of people you’re trying to reach, yet specific enough to still be meaningful. You want your pain points to really strike a chord with your audience, and after they answer these rhetorical questions, make them want to do business with you!

What strategies have you used to identify your own pain points or the pain points of your customers? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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4 Comments

Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Business & Success

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 responses to “Dealing with the Pain Points: The right way to identify your customers’ needs

  1. ramakrishnan6002

    April 7, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Reblogged this on Gr8fullsoul.

     
  2. ~ Tim King ~

    April 16, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Yes, pain points are sometimes touchy subjects, but identifying them – then working towards solving these problems for your client – is the only way they will truly understand and appreciate what happened. Otherwise, they will always just assume the problem just got solved on its own.

    Question: What do you do when the clients pain is actually due to their “success” ? As in, they are always “too busy” , “too behind” or “too overwhelmed right now” to even give you the time to get the information you need to help them?

     
  3. Stephanie Shirley

    April 16, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Great question, Tim!

    I’ve experienced this with clients first hand and it’s a tough situation to maneuver. I’ve learned to set ground rules and expectations for when I need answers/feedback otherwise I cannot be of help to them.

    Most importantly I try and identify tasks I can do automatically and without their approval so that I can keep things moving independently of them. For example, what is the approval process for writing and publishing blogs, newsletters and social media content? Ultimately it comes down to trust and comfort. Once a client trusts my work and feels comfortable with me working without their final approval for everything, I can push things along and lessen their load by taking these items OFF their to-do list, rather than piling more on.

    For the big things, I will always want their approval, but I work to get them to let go of those little tasks and trust someone else enough to handle them. It’s no easy task, but it can have a huge impact on their overwhelming schedule.

    Ultimately, clients need to be ready to let you in so that you can help them. If they can’t even make time for that, their priorities are not yet where they need to be to work with you. Hope this helps!

     
  4. ~ Tim King ~

    April 17, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Yes, thanks. That’s a good tip. Being proactive and telling them up front that “these are the things that I am going to do – so that you don’t have to.”

     

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