How to use “pain” in B2B sales to convince your customers

What is the best way for a startup to get feedback? Sales! Because only when you ask someone to reach into their wallet and buy your product are you guaranteed to get honest feedback. This is true for B2B sales as well. The question is: Does your product alleviate a "pain" of your customers so successfully that they actually give you money for it? A guest article by Martin Giese and Matthias Hilpert

Companies don’t care how cool your product is. They’re not eager to change the way they do business. And they don’t like spending money. You only have one chance to get them to do all these things:

You have to make them aware of a problem that hurts them enough to give you their attention – and then prove to them that you can solve it.

At its core, the “pain” always relates to money: because companies want to be as profitable as possible, they are always looking for new ways to cut costs and/or increase revenue.

In our experience, the formula that determines your sales momentum is:

Sales Momentum = Perceived Pain x Perceived Quality of your Solution

This results in three challenges that you must overcome one after the other in order to sell successfully.

1. Identify customers with a large enough pain

It is easier to sell a painkiller than a vitamin supplement. Likewise, it makes your sales job easier if your customer’s pain is clearly visible and quantifiable.

Sometimes the pain is hidden. The problem looks so unavoidable that it’s not even recognized as pain. In this case, you need to get creative to first create awareness of the problem your product solves.

“We explained to our customers how our scouting solution would save them the 8,000 hours they would have to spend on traditional supplier scouting. Amazing, right? But then they said, “In theory, that’s nice, but we don’t do any scouting in practice, so there’s no savings.”

Gregor Stühler, Co-Founder & CEO, Scoutbee
Martin Giese and Matthias Hilpert

2. Clearly show how your solution can alleviate the customer’s pain

As a founder, it’s your superpower to make a connection between pain and product. Take advantage of this in sales:

“A founder can sell on an entirely different level to a sales representative, who can only change the product or change the pricing. A founder can change the rules if that helps close the deal.”

Bastian Nominacher, Co-Founder & CEO, Celonis

If you sense that customers don’t see the connection, find out why: do they not see the relevance of your solution? Maybe the solution is missing something, or you need to revise your sales pitch. Or maybe the pain is less severe than you thought. Then it’s time to pivot!

The best proof of impact comes from quantifying as accurately as possible how much money or time your solution saves your customers:

“A controller can clearly quantify the financial impact of a possible COVID-19 related factory closure. These risks run up to several million euros. This makes it easy to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of a product that reduces both the probability and the business impact of a COVID-19 outbreak.”

Oliver Trinchera, Co-Founder & CEO, Kinexon

“On average, Demodesk helps to cut ramp-up time for a B2B sales rep by half, from six to three months. This means that new sales reps achieve their quota three months earlier. You can easily quantify the value this represents for the customer.”

Veronika Riederle, Co-Founder & CEO, Demodesk

3. Prove the superiority of your solution as a “painkiller”

If there’s a real and big enough pain, and your product solves it, the only thing that can still kill your sales efforts is a competitor addressing that same pain. Continuously researching, understanding, and measuring yourself against the competition is an important task that many startup founders neglect.

As a startup, having to prove the superiority of your solution over established companies sounds difficult. But it can be done – even as a group of students trying to build a rocket startup:

“It was a big credibility booster for us that we had won Bulent Altan, former Vice President of SpaceX, as an investor. That’s a name everyone in the industry knows and trusts.
Just by announcing our MOU with Airbus, within two weeks, we had 15 satellite companies calling us about our satellite launches. Their reasoning was: if Airbus had done its due diligence and trusts these guys, we can trust them for sure.”

Daniel Metzler, Co-Founder & CEO, Isar Aerospace

If you don’t manage to convince your customers in these three steps, you won’t have a chance to sell anything. If, on the other hand, you score in all three steps, your startup will soon be able to celebrate success in sales.

The authors Martin Giese and Matthias Hilpert share more than 40 years of successful operating experience as startup founder, senior executive, board member, mentor and investor in startups. Their book ‘Fast Forward: Accelerating B2B Sales for Startups’ is available as an ebook, audio book and paperback.