If you’ve worked in sales for any amount of time, you know the standard sales process looks something like this: You identify a prospect and conduct research, you figure out what pain point or challenge they’re trying to solve, and then you offer your product or services as the solution.

You also know many deals fall through—not because the prospect doesn’t need your product or decides to go with a competitor—but simply because they can’t, or won’t, make a decision. There’s no putting this lightly: It’s incredibly frustrating when this happens.

We’ve traced the root of the non-decision back to one main factor: Your buyer won’t admit they have a problem and as a result, they’re not ready to ask for your help solving it. Think about it, if your prospect isn’t willing, to be honest about their pain points or challenges, you really can’t help them. Right?

Not necessarily, today we discuss why some prospects have a hard time talking about their challenges and tactics you can use to get your buyers to admit they need help. Let’s get into it!

Why don’t some buyers admit they need help?

Every prospect has a unique set of problems and coping mechanisms. We can’t tell you exactly why every prospect won’t discuss their pain points with you– but we can break down the most common reasons. Here’s what we’ve found:

Your prospect doesn’t know they have a problem:
These prospects are in what we call the “pre-awareness” stage of the buyer’s journey. They don’t have a motive for hiding their problem from you– they just haven’t discovered it yet. It will take the most time to get these prospects to open up; they have to discover their problem before they can discuss it with you.

Your role as the sales rep in this scenario is to serve as an educational resource for this prospect. If they’re open to a discussion, try to educate them about the problems your product solves. This might trigger some investigation on their part. If your prospect isn’t open to discussion, it’s best to nurture them with educational resources and content.

They don’t want to address their problem right now:

The prospect is aware of their problem, but solving it is not a priority. Perhaps they don’t have the resources and budget to solve it, or there are other issues they care more about. These prospects will only admit their problem when they recognize the impact it has on their business goals.

In this scenario, it’s best to help the prospect understand exactly how a particular pain point or challenge impacts them. Determine what this person cares most about and explain why it’s important to solve a particular issue.

They’re protecting themselves:

Prospects, just like everyone else, don’t like admitting their shortcomings – especially to total strangers. If the prospect is unfamiliar to you, your company or your products, they won’t let their guard down and discuss pain points. This is particularly true if the prospect feels like you are telling them they do something wrong.

For this reason, you should never be accusatory or force a conversation about pain points if your prospect isn’t ready. Instead, try asking questions that lead them to certain conclusions on their own.

They are already exploring other options:

These prospects are well-aware of their problem, but they have already taken steps to fix it. They don’t see why they need to admit their problem to another sales rep, so they keep it to themselves. In this scenario, try to illustrate why your product outperforms your competitors. You can get a prospect to open up if the thing you have a superior offering or product. 

Although we’ve offered several ways to handle prospects who won’t discuss challenges, it’s not always that easy to identify the reason for a prospect’s hesitance. For this reason, we’ve provided you with tactics to form better relationships with prospects to get them to open up early on in the sales cycle. If executed effectively, these tactics will prevent you from ever reaching standstill with a prospect who isn’t ready to discuss their pain points.  These tactics are as follows:

1. Earn your prospect’s trust.

There’s no way around it– if a prospect doesn’t trust you, they won’t take the time to work through their challenges with you. And, unfortunately, establishing trust is no easy task. In fact, only 3% of buyers trust sales reps (source).

Here’s what we recommend:

Demonstrate your commitment to helping the prospect by doing your homework:

Your buyer might be aware of their problem, but why are you the person they should discuss it with? That’s a question you need to answer and the best way to do so is to demonstrate your willingness to get to know the prospect and your commitment to helping them.

Cold calling a prospect with nothing more than some basic information doesn’t cut it in today’s digital world. Most sales professionals have a wealth of customer data right at their fingertips. Therefore, it’s important to do extensive sales prospect research to learn as much as you can about the prospect before picking up the phone. That way, you can better predict the person’s pain points and you’ve already proven your willingness to invest time in the prospect.

Establish your credibility and the credibility of your business:

Prospects don’t want to hear from a smooth-talking sales rep– they want to see indisputable evidence that your company can produce results. Work with your marketing team to offer prospects relevant case studies and content that showcase your company’s credibility. 

Be genuine:

Your rehearsed, robotic script isn’t going to encourage a prospect to open up about their problems. Worry less about selling something and more about having a real human conversation with the prospect. Make the prospect feel comfortable enough to let their guard down when it’s time to discuss their pain points.

Building trust with prospects can be a difficult process and requires a lot of preparation and experience. To learn more ways to build trust quickly, check out the following blog post: The B2B Sales Rep’s Guide to Building Trust Quickly.

2. Explain the consequences of not taking action.

Although, you’d like to think a prospect would appreciate a product or service that prevents an issue from occurring in the first place. But, the reality is, many prospects wait until the damage is already done before looking for a solution.

As a sales rep, it’s your job to explain what will happen if the person continues to ignore something that seems like a small or menial problem. Ask the prospect questions like: “If your current system remains the same, how will it impact your business a year from now?” Questions like this force the prospect to consider the long-term damage their problem may cause and will make them more willing to discuss their need for a solution.

3. Reference targeted case studies.

As we’ve already mentioned, telling a prospect that they have a problem can backfire– you may appear insulting rather than helpful. Instead, leverage the power of case studies to provide examples of past buyers with similar pain points. Be sure the buyer you use as an example has similar characteristics to the specific prospect you’re dealing with.

Let’s look at an example: Your company offers a document management tool that allows for easy exchange of contracts over the web. You speak with a prospect that still relies on direct mail for signing contracts. You could say: “The last stage of your sales cycle is much slower than it needs to be, and our tool can fix that.”

But you’re better off saying: “We worked with another company in your industry that was able to shorten the contract portion of their sales cycle by 15% with the use of our tool. In the six months since implementing our tool, they’ve seen their monthly revenue rise by 7%.”

By using another buyer as an example, you give the prospect concrete evidence that their problem is holding them back from their goals.

4. Discuss personal impact.

Personal goals play a large role in the B2B buying process. Studies show that 71% of buyers who see personal value will purchase a product, and personal value is twice as impactful as business value (source).

Want to get a prospect to admit they need your help? Get personal. Consider the following questions:

  • How does their business problem impact the person’s individual performance?
  • What is the prospect’s personal goals, and how does their business problem affect them as an individual?
  • If their business does nothing about the problem, how will that impact the prospect personally?

Connect business pain points to personal emotions and you will help the prospect see their problem in a new light. If the prospect believes solving their business problem will have personal benefits, they will be more motivated to admit they need your help.

Final Thoughts

There’s no secret formula that will get a prospect to admit they need help. Some will open up right away – and some will make you feel like you’re hitting a brick wall every time you try to discuss pain points and challenges.

If you lose prospects whenever you try to talk pain points, it may be time to spice up your approach. Convincing a stubborn prospect to open up may feel like an impossible task — but it will be that much more rewarding once you do break through.

About the author

Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is a content marketing director at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact data solution.

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