Get Inside Your Customers’ Head(ache)

Customers will always buy a pain killer when they have a headache - it’s a “must-have” product. Vitamins are only a “nice to have” items. You want to position your offerings as pain killers, not vitamins.

Our team Zoom meeting agenda with a client was on a totally different topic – but that is often when those “gold nugget” surprise insights show up!

I’ll share the story and then explain the key lessons learned.

The original topic was understanding the difference between features versus benefits of products and services.

We were engaging with our client’s team members who have a lot of face time with their customers – they understand the customers better than anyone. We also had a cross-section of the “back shop” team with the “front office” team.

I wanted to make sure the team was communicating with the customers about the benefits to the customers as opposed to talking about product or service features – which the customers don’t care about. (For example, instead of talking about a tire feature of patented tread design, the benefit the customers care about is that their car will stop sooner with these better tires.)

This particular product was actually an event rental service. And if your event is inside the city limits, it will likely require a building permit. The application process for obtaining the permit was all taken care of by the client as part of the package.

When the back shop team explained they had helped out a person who had hired the competitor for an event. The city shut it down because of a permit violation. Wow – that would be painful for him!  That’s when the whole vitamins versus pain killers discussion came up.

Customers will always buy a pain killer when they have a headache – it’s a “must-have” product. But vitamins are only a “nice to have” product – there is no pain if you don’t take them today – so you probably don’t. You want to be selling pain killers – not vitamins. I was so glad the front office team was on this call because we discovered they were not positioning this key feature of the service as well as they could. In fact, it is likely potential customers may not have even known about the cumbersome activity of obtaining the permit was part of the offering. And since people always move away from pain faster than they move towards pleasure, we realized we need to communicate the importance of avoiding this potential headache to their customers.

The prospective customer simply needs to understand my client will actually prevent the headache from happening in the first place! Maybe a script to consider:

Office team: So, Ms. Event Planner, would you like us to make sure your event isn’t unexpectedly shut down by the city due to a permit problem?

Ms. Event Planner: OMG I had no idea about that! But now that my brain has started thinking about the headache of having my event shut down, I would most definitely prefer to avoid the pain and get this booking firmed up right away! I don’t care if the competition is a little cheaper, I can’t risk the possible headache!

In summary, this client was performing an important and time-consuming service (obtaining the permit), but the potential customers may not have even known they were doing it. They were even gracious enough to help out someone who actually hired the competition and experienced the pain as a result.

Here is a summary of the lessons learned:

  • Opening up the communication lines between the front office and the back shop is valuable. Understanding what each other is doing provides insights.
  • Pain killer products sell better than vitamins. The desire to avoid a headache is what triggers a customer’s decision to buy. Customers decide based on emotions and justify with logic. Make sure your sales team understands this.
  • Review all the components of your offerings and consider the benefits they provide to your customers. Check if they are positioned so your potential customers actually know about them. The best customer benefits solve or avoid painful headaches.
  • Scripting the communications for the sales team makes it more systematic and likely to get inside the customer’s head. We often assume the customer already knows what we know – they don’t. Having a system that makes sure they understand how you can eliminate headaches will help them decide to buy from you.

If you have any questions, suggestions, feedback or insights please do not hesitate to reach out!

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