Back in the ’80s, McDonald’s opened its first drive-through. It was pretty revolutionary because before that, people would have to drive to the restaurant, find parking, pick the food up, and go home. The process took extra effort that people didn’t necessarily want to make. The drive-through solved that, saving valuable time for countless people across the U.S.
About the same time, Chrysler was designing a new car, and management asked one of the workers to spend a whole day driving around in it to identify any features it lacked. It was not long before management discovered a cupholder could be essential for the everyday driver. With the simple addition of a cupholder, Chrysler’s car became the top seller in the U.S. before long.
What’s the takeaway?
These two stories demonstrate excellent examples of selling towards a customer pain.
McDonald’s learned that people found it irritating to drive to their restaurant and park the car before picking up their food and taking it home. The entire process was slow due to the lack of parking and the long lines of people waiting to order from the menu. The drive-through addressed these problems and took away this pain, making it easier for their customers to get what they wanted conveniently.
On the other hand, Chrysler discovered that customers actually wanted a place to put their morning coffee on the way to work. When drivers have two hands on the steering wheel, it only makes sense to provide a place for drinks, so drivers aren’t trying to balance their cup of hot coffee between their legs. As a result, Chrysler designed cupholders for the car, easing this pain and making life easier for their customers.
Both of these companies looked at their customers, identified their pain, and found ways to address it. As a salesperson, you need to learn your customer’s pain points, learn from them, and find a solution for them. The specifics of those pains will vary by industry and even by individual customer, but the formula stands the same: Know their challenge and fix it for them.
How to sell painkillers:
Once you have identified the customer pain point in question, you have the chance to think of a solution--a way your company or product can address the pain so that it no longer bothers clients. I like to refer to these solutions as “painkillers.” After all, you are essentially removing clients’ “pain” by solving the primary obstacles that stand in their way.
Once you find the painkiller, you still have to sell it in a way that connects with your consumers and showcases the value of your brand’s approach to solving their problems.
First, you must understand the difference between a “painkiller” and a “vitamin.”
Vitamins keep us feeling content and comfortable, but they don’t necessarily improve how we feel. When you work in sales, the customer expects you to have vitamins--meaning they expect that you are going to provide them with the things that they need to keep functioning. For example, a client will expect regular communications, a fair price and good-quality services.
Painkillers, on the other hand, are the goods and services that will dramatically change the way they live their lives for the better. They could be providing additional convenience that saves your client time, or they could be a bonus add-on service that increases value without tacking on extra costs.
Now, you can’t take a painkiller and try to sell it as a vitamin; no one is going to buy it if you do. If someone expects a certain upgrade, it loses its selling power. You have to go into details, explaining why it is a painkiller just for them and how it will help them overcome their specific issues. It has to address these things directly, and you need to be the force behind it.
Let’s look at an example from my experience. Not too long ago, I was getting my nails done while reading a magazine. I came across a skincare product that I wouldn’t usually buy, but I did. Why? It told me it was for impatient people who wanted something that worked quickly. It impacted me because it resonated with me--I’m a busy person and my time is spent better away from a mirror. Did the cream work? In the end, no. But I still bought it because the advertisement worked. They understood me and their market. You need to do the same.
This isn’t always easy to do, and uncovering a customer’s issue can take time. However, once you have discovered it and taken the time to create the right solution, your customers will notice and express their gratitude through positive reviews and testimonials.
When it comes down to it, it simply takes understanding the people you are working with and putting in that extra effort to make things easier for them--and ensuring that they understand your unique role in simplifying their lives.
With 30 years of experience owning event planning, high-end catering, and design and decor companies, Meryl Snow is on a mission to help businesses get on their own path to success. As a senior consultant and sales trainer for SnowStorm Solutions, Snow travels throughout North America training clients in the areas of sales, marketing, design and branding. As a member of the Wedding Industry Speakers, she speaks with groups from the heart with warmth and knowledge, and covers the funny side of life and business.