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All businesses aspire to understand client needs, but the way to do it has changed. The need in the past was clear and easy to break down into product or solution requirements. Today the needs are more complex with focus on expected gains and elimination of existing pain points.
Product and Solution Requirements
The understanding of product and solution requirements requested by clients is still relevant. Meeting the requirements used to be an essential part of client need fulfillment. You can still come far with a strategy focused on implementing all improvements a client request. This underlying belief is “the client is always right” and nothing can go wrong as longs as we stick to client desires.
But in a dynamic world it is becoming harder and harder for clients to define the requirements on their own. Successful buyers work closer with a few selected partners to interpret the world. And proactive vendors aim to suggest options for alternative requirements. Input from the eco-system has never been more relevant. External ideas shape more of buyers product and solution requirements.
Organizations driven by requirements tend to focus on value propositions, own capabilities and benefits. Since everything is clear the client conversations boil down to offering and price. But as the client situation is more complex we need to aim further to avoid driving towards commodities.
The next step in improving our understanding of customer needs is to focus on outcomes. Expect you clients to have clear expectations on the gains targeted with a new solution.
The expected gains are often articulated as business improvements. Increasing sales, reducing OpEx, reducing CapEx and increasing EBITDA etc. When understanding these type of gains you want to understand them in order of priority and how much each us expected to improve.
Expected gains tend to be more generic, have a longer horizon and provide little guidance on timing. Generic gains broken down from strategic directions guide you in what to sell but not how to sell or win. The longer horizon put focus on big questions, sometimes so big they are hard to deliver upon. Expected gains signal intent to purchase but when and how much can often be hard to understand.
In organizations focusing on expected gains you often see high level value propositions. Resulting in high level qualified but not quantified improvement suggestions.
Existing pain points
The most important aspect of client need understanding is today centered around pain points. In uncertain markets investments eliminating existing pain points get highest priority. The existing pain points tell you why clients will buy and why they will buy know. Articulation of Existing pain points can be both high level and around the area affected by the implementation.
Pain points are easier to quantify and set expectations on with regards to possible improvements. Existing pain points prioritized by clients come with clear timings on resolution realizations. Expect multiple related pain points to co-exist in different stakeholder organizations.
An understanding of existing pain points represent the deepest form of customer understanding. Beyond knowing what the pain points are you understand what is shaping your clients minds around the pain points. Which strategic options do they see? What are critical expectations on the resolution? What shape their decision making?
Organizations working hard with understanding existing pain points are the hardest to beat. Their client need articulation focus on specific business aspects of a handful of pain points. The value proposition design start outside-in to address the pain points. The opportunity has a high likelihood of occurring soon.
Questions for you and your team
- Where do we focus our articulation of client needs – on of the three options is likely to dominate.
- How do we need to work differently to understand clients’ existing pain points – expect it to be s start of a longer journey.
- How do we secure our organization understand the pain points driving our clients’ business – the further away from client paint points the easier it is to only focus on requirements and gain.
- How can you eliminate existing pain points in an even better way – aspire to coach your client with better solutions than they have thought of.
- How do we document insight on client pain points – similar customers are likely to face the same pain points as a base for peer sales team to exploit.
Additional reading suggestions
- Why is the customer journey so complex and what does it mean for business [ARTICLE] – by Neal Davey, MyCustomer
- Know all the customers’ needs [BLOGPOST] – by Strategyn
- Why customer pain is your most important resource [ARTICLE] – by Fast Company
- How to find the customer pain point [ARTICLE] – by Inc