Better Needs Analysis with the P.A.I.N. Technique

So you’ve landed a meeting with a new prospect. You’ve fostered an environment of mutual trust and respect and created a buying atmosphere. How do you move forward with the needs analysis in a way that gives your prospect confidence that working with you is the right decision? Well, by identifying the pain, of course.

Man sitting in a chair - Needs Analysis PAIN technique

Most salespeople know that they need to identify the pain, or “find the pain.” But that’s just scratching the surface of an effective needs analysis.

I developed the P.A.I.N. technique to show salespeople how to go beyond just finding the pain. It’s an easy to remember approach for deeply understanding your prospect’s needs while setting up the next steps of the sale.

The P.A.I.N. Technique

  • Pinpoint the PAIN
  • Amplify the PAIN
  • Invite them to sit in the PAIN
  • Nudge them toward a solution

Let’s look at this step-by-step process.

P: Pinpoint the PAIN

After you’ve found a customer’s pain point, ask follow-up questions and make sure you understand specifically what’s causing the pain; don’t let them be vague. If your prospect tells you that they’re not getting the level of service they’re looking for from their current provider, ask them for more details. “Does your system go offline a lot? Is it slow? Both?”

Once you’ve drilled down and pinpointed the specific pain/need, don’t jump to offering an immediate solution. The prospect needs to truly see the level of pain they’d be in by staying in their current situation. Which brings us to step two.

A: Amplify the PAIN

Rather than quickly moving on once the pain point is identified, work to amplify it by asking “why” and “how” questions, like “How much production time are you losing when your system is down?” or “How is that affecting your reputation?”. Get your prospect to describe the pain vividly and in detail. If possible, make them quantify it using time or dollars.

If they’ve been living with this problem for a while, they’ve probably become somewhat numb to it. Amplifying it is the best way to shake them out of that fog and help them see a more accurate picture of their current situation.

I: Invite them to sit in it!

This is the secret in the sauce. Invite them to sit in their pain by asking additional questions and by utilizing silence to give them space to really stew in it.  A well-placed “Wow!” from you can serve to remind them that this pain is not a normal part of business.

“Wow! So you don’t really know how many customers this has cost you?” Some awkward silence can drive that point home.

Just let them simmer in that reality for a moment before giving them a gentle push.

N: Nudge them towards the solution

It’s easy at this point to pretend that you’re the prince riding in on the white horse. But you’re still in the needs analysis and this is not the time to solve their problem. For now, just drop some hints about the correct solution – a solution that you have, of course. If your solution has superior uptime, you’d say, “It sounds like your team members and your customers would be a lot happier if you had a system you could rely on.”

You’re only nudging, not closing. You are just hinting that you can solve their problem. This gets them curious or even excited to hear what you have to offer. Then continue your normal needs analysis to make sure you’ve found all of their pain points, using the P.A.I.N. technique after each one.

After you’ve found all their pain points, the next steps would typically be setting an appointment to present a proposal.

Needs Analysis on Steriods

Identifying why a prospect needs you is a huge part of closing any deal. All it takes is a good ear and some well-timed questions to find out what’s causing them pain so that you can easily show them how partnering with you can alleviate it. Don’t be afraid to (gently) pour a little alcohol in the wound.

What are your customer’s common pain points? Spend some time putting together your own follow-up questions and “wow” comments. With a little practice, you’ll be using the P.A.I.N. technique to take your needs analysis skills to expert level.

Until next time—go sell some stuff!


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