identifying customer pain

Identifying the Real Pain: How to Effectively Qualify Your Customer’s Pain Points

identifying customer pain

There is no deal without a pain.

Pain is the driver. The ultimate reason why customers will act and buy your solution in the end.

It may not be obvious to begin with, but there is always a trigger that gets decision makers buy:

Something they need to solve, grow, improve, or reduce.

However, too many sales people don’t know what the real pain is or how to find it.

In this article, we’ll cover exactly what qualifies as a real pain, what doesn’t, along with real world examples of pain points that were strong enough to close a deal.


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What a real pain is (and what isn’t)

In 4 out of 5 cases, sales people assume what the pain is.

They don’t bother confirming with the client. Many times these are assumptions built around the features and benefits of a product with no clear understanding of the benefit for the client.

Here are a few examples of pain points sales reps have brought to me that are simply not strong enough:

  • The client doesn’t have a data storage system
  • The client needs an automation on XYZ
  • The client has to act because of compliance reasons.

The problem is that these are intentions. Not actual pains.

So what is a “real” pain point?

It is the answer to the following questions:

  • Why should the client do anything?
  • What is the reason for acting?
  • What is preventing or stopping the client?

What is the consequence of doing nothing?

  • How big of a pain is it?
  • Is there a deadline that the client needs to solve this pain by?

Ideally the consequence is related to your clients business and has a big, measureable impact tied to a deadline that makes it compelling enough to act upon. We call this a “compelling event”

This is probably the most difficult item to discover, as prospects very rarely want to disclose it. (See How to win customer rapport)

But if you manage to discover a pain point that has a huge consequence AND a deadline, you’ve hit the Holy Grail of Sales:

“Only one who is worthy may drink…”

I once personally closed a $400K deal in just 48 hours to a large enterprise client without being listed as a vendor in SAP, and 0% discount.


Because my solution could solve a pain that would have cost this company $1M in penalties just 72 hours later. The consequence of paying such a high penalty got this company to bypass all internal processes and pay whatever it took to make this pain go away!

And let me tell you, it felt sweet to sell at list price…

Now you might say this was a once-in-a-life-time deal, but knowing the real pain and implication strengthens your position on negotiations and lets you drive the sales process proactively.

How to know whether the pain is strong enough to close a deal

Just discovering a pain point is not enough.

You have to qualify it in order to know whether your deal will hold up or fall apart.

More specifically:

You need to qualify the consequence of doing nothing.

That is, the pain must impact the customer in terms of time, cost, risk or revenue if not solved within a certain time period.

Collect clear metrics from your client regarding revenue, time or resources lost and identify the consequence of doing nothing.

This needs to be something concrete. Your best guess won’t do here.

Here’s a real life example from my former colleague Peter, who sells accounting software:


ABC Corp. is using competitive accounting software that has been discontinued and will not be developed further in the future. New accounting rules have been announced by the federal tax office that ABC needs to be compliant within 6 months.

What do you think?

We have a pain and a nice deadline and messing with the tax authorities is never an option, so all good here.

At least that’s what Peter thought.

But do we really know the consequence for ABC?

In other words, will they be fined if the miss the deadline? Or could they find a work around and stay with their system?

Peter went back to the client to ask about the implication of missing the deadline. He found out that the tax authorities would not set any penalties in the first 12 months and ABC setup a manual process to fulfill the compliance rules.

Just like that, the compelling event vaporized.

So Peter calculated the efforts of the workaround, and discovered that the costs were much higher than buying from him.

As a result, he was still able to close the deal on time.

If you want to win, don’t assume anything

It’s too easy for us as human beings to interpret information and bridge gaps to complete an incomplete picture.

Hold yourself accountable on this one: Don’t assume anything.

Confirm and reconfirm your findings with multiple contacts at your client (including your Champion).

Warning: A weak pain or unclear consequences could be huge risk for your deals. It usually causes delays to your deals or lower funding due to the lack of priority for the executive management!

And keep in mind that executive management will always ask the buying department some variation of:

  • Why do anything?
  • Why NOW?

That’s why it’s critical to have these questions answered and confirmed by the client to avoid your deal from slipping at the last minute. (See 3 Simple Questions That Will Increase Your Close Rate for more info.)


Uncovering your client’s pain and how you can solve it will ultimately decide whether your customer will pull the trigger and buy your product.

And by qualifying these points and making sure they have a measurable impact which is confirmed by the client, you will have a solid foundation to build your deal on. Click here to find out how Pain Identification fits into the MEDDIC sales process.

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