January 07, 2020
By Laura Fredericks

As a top sales professional, your time is incredibly valuable. You can only afford to spend it on prospects who need your help, want your help, and are willing to work with you to solve their problems. Anything less will be a drain on your sales productivity, budget, and team.

The only way your prospects will buy from you is if they have a legitimate business need. Without a true business pain that impacts their ability to grow, your solution is just a nice-to-have.

So how do you find the types of business problems that customers have no choice but to solve? By identifying and detailing prospect pain points, your hotel sales team can build authentic relationships with customers, craft personalized solutions, and close more deals.

Read on for the ultimate guide to prospect pain points for hotel sales teams, and get the sales solutions you need.

Learn how hoteliers can identify customer pain points in eight simple steps:

1. Business pain points are problems you can help solve.

Your ability to position your property as the right solution for the customer entirely depends on your understanding of your audience and the customer’s pain points. A pain point is a specific problem that your prospects are facing that materially affects their business outcomes — you can think of pain points as big problems that your prospects feel a driving need to solve. These problems are as diverse as your customers, but often fall into one of a few categories:

  • Growth: Your prospects are not seeing the level of growth or business outcomes that they are aiming for, or are having trouble reaching or selling to enough customers.

  • Financial: Your prospects are spending too much money with their current solution, or need to reduce their budget for a solution.

  • Productivity: Your prospects are spending too much time or effort with their current solution, or are finding inefficiencies in their current process.

  • Process: Your prospects want to improve an internal process to make it more transparent, repeatable, and efficient.

  • Support: Your prospects aren’t receiving the customer support they need at critical stages in their journey, or don’t feel like their current provider understands their needs.

  • Reputation: Your prospects aren’t getting the visibility or brand recognition that they need from their customers, or feel that their customers don’t understand their values.

Categorizing pain points makes it easier to brainstorm ways that your property and solution can help. For example, if the prospect’s pain points are mostly financial, you can highlight the cost savings your property provides at every step of the planning process, and how their event or group stay fits into their overall budget goals.

Keep in mind that categorization is just the first step: your sales process is not as simple as identifying financial pain points and then pointing out that your property is cheaper than the competition. Pain points are complex and layered, and might combine issues from multiple categories. Customers may not even be aware of all of their pain points, and will need your help to discover their problems before they can consider you as a solution. By presenting your property as a trusted partner able to help with a variety of problems, you’ll be better positioned to address each pain point as they come up.

Address pain points with sales insights solutions 

2. Your sales relationship depends on understanding prospect pain points.

Once you have identified and categorized pain points for a handful of prospects, you will start to see similarities and “repeats.” This is a particularly challenging time, when inexperienced sales reps and managers often let their guard down. Don’t assume that a process-related pain point from one prospect will be the same as a process-related pain point from another, even if they at first look identical. Two pain points may both come up in a sales call as “an internal problem with our team’s communication,” but the root cause, problem specifics, internal business process, and team dynamics will all be different and will require different solutions. By treating each pain point as a new experience, you will be better able to listen effectively as your prospect describes how that problem is affecting their business and how you can help solve it.

The best way to get a detailed understanding of pain points, their root causes, and how they are affecting your prospects is to ask the right open-ended questions during the discovery phase of your sales process. You can then use the answers to these questions to build your relationship with the customer at the same time that you craft their perfect solution.

3. Qualitative, open-ended questions will paint a better picture of prospect pain points.

It’s tempting when trying to discover pain points to turn to quantitative methods like surveys, polls, and numeric feedback forms. After all, shouldn’t this give you a better idea of how your customers think as a whole? While quantitative data is incredibly helpful for seeing large trends, you should not rely on it to discover pain points for individual businesses or customers. Pain points are highly variable and subjective. Customers will have different experiences with problems, even if the problems themselves are similar.

The most effective tool for discovering prospect pain points is a well-considered open-ended question. These questions paint a picture of your prospect’s experience of major business problems, whether the prospect realizes they have that problem or not. Prospects (and sales reps) often jump to talking about a solution, as opposed to describing the problem. For instance, your prospect may say, “we can only serve one dish during the wedding” (solution), when what they really mean is, “we need to find a way to save money on the food” (problem with many creative solutions). Open-ended questions allow both you and the prospect to focus on problem areas before you jump to specific solutions.

4. Your initial questions should focus on the big picture.

Your ability to initially connect with a prospect depends on establishing quick rapport and an understanding of their business as a whole. Don’t assume anything about the prospect’s role, problem, or industry. Instead, ask the questions you need to start creating a picture of your prospect and the problem they are trying to solve so that you can craft a value proposition that matches their needs.

  • What would you like to get out of today’s call?

  • What are some current inhibitors to your company’s growth?

  • What problem are you being asked to solve?

  • What are your current goals?

  • What is your biggest frustration with how you have run (this event/solved this problem/booked this stay/hosted this group) in the past?

  • How big of a problem is this for you and your team?

  • Who in your company is being tasked with solving this problem?

  • When you talk about this problem to your boss, what points does he/she focus on?

  • What happens if you can’t solve this problem?

  • If you found an immediate solution, what would that look like?

  • If you had an unlimited budget, how would you solve this problem?

5. If prospects have a past experience solving the problem, discover more about it.

Some sales reps shy away from talking about competitors or how the prospect has solved a problem in the past, but this is a mistake. Dive into the details about past solutions so that you can figure out what parts to replicate, and what to change. Look at past relationship notes in your CRM to see why the sale didn’t close in the past, and use this to craft appropriate questions about the future.

  • How did you solve this problem in the past?

  • What did last year’s event look like?

  • What went well last year? What would you change?

  • How has your business changed since last year?

  • What did you like about working with (competitor property)?

  • What was the biggest headache with this event last year?

  • What changes will make things easier for you this year?

6. Uncover concerns so that you can address them.

By asking questions that uncover objections, you will know about any doubts your prospect has and be better able to address them. Try to uncover concerns about price, features, decision-maker opinion, or your location early in the process so that you can work to craft a solution that overcomes these objections.

  • In what ways will changing (vendors/properties/providers/your process) disrupt your workflow?

  • What concerns do you have about making a change?

  • How are you evaluating different options? What other properties are you considering?

  • How does our property compare to others you’re looking at?

  • How does our space suit your needs?

  • How does location affect your decision?

  • What does your budget look like for this (event/group/project)?

  • What things might get in the way of this moving forward?

7. Close the deal by winning over decision makers.

Your relationship with the company will likely involve multiple decision makers and stakeholders. By uncovering who these people are and how they work together, you will set yourself up for success and lay the groundwork to win them over. You can even use these sales strategies to impress them.

  • How will the decision-making process work?

  • Who else should we involve in this conversation?

  • What materials can I send to make the process easier?

  • What would make this problem no longer a priority?

  • What else can I do to help you finalize the decision?

  • How can I make this easy?

8. Follow up to get the details you need.

Prospects will often start with providing a short and efficient answer to your question. This is often because they are trying to be helpful, but don’t want to go into more detail unless you need it. By asking appropriate follow up questions you can discover much more about the details of a pain point and how it is affecting your prospect.

  • What did you mean when you said “X?”

  • Oh, how so?

  • What does this all mean to you, personally?

  • Why is that?

  • Can you clarify for me what you meant by…?

  • Can you elaborate on XYZ?

  • Can you help me understand that a little better?

Hotel professionalism

Want to know even more about addressing pain points in the hotel sales process?

How do you understand customer pain points?

To really understand customer pain points you need to ask open-ended questions, learn more about how they've solved problems in the past, uncover specific concerns such as required features and budget, and identify decision makers as well as their priorities.

How do you identify customer needs?

To identify customer needs ask what tasks they find themselves doing multiple times and what work they do that they don't like. Ask what they think about your competitors, and how you compare. Watch customers' workflows for a day to get first-hand observations. Analyze your customer support tickets for trends and ideas.

How do you solve customer problems?

To solve customer problems, get the facts from the customer about what's wrong. Repeat what you hear them saying to ensure understanding and ask clarifying questions. Offer solutions, as well as your specific recommendation. Inform the customer of next steps.

How do you convince customers to buy from you?

Convince customers to buy from you by being a thought partner that provides excellent service. Understand their goals and pain points. Identify the right decision makers. Put together a plan with a compelling story (use language they're familiar with and analogy to make your presentation memorable). Include the benefits of your product, what sets it apart from competitors, and clear next steps. Drive a sense of urgency with a compelling offer.

Win more business by identifying event planners' pain points:

By asking the right questions, you can uncover customer pain points early in your sales process and craft your sales approach. 

Looking for more creative boosts in your sales process? Read on to see how to use digital content to sell your hotel's destination.

Grow group sales overnight

Laura Fredericks author headshot

Laura Fredericks

Laura brings a decade of insight to improving marketing, as she has worked in technology since 2010. She has experience starting and scaling a business, driving customer marketing, and speaking at live events, including WeDC Fest 2018. She founded Describli and Paradigm Labs, and currently works with companies to improve their customer relationship management and content strategy.

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