A major goal for all of our clients is to shrink the sales funnel. They want to substantially reduce the amount of time it takes for someone to go from knowing very little about them to trusting them implicitly and awarding them with business.
Our clients want their prospective clients to trust them with some of the most important areas of their lives: their wealth, their health, their businesses, their careers and their families and loved ones. These are not small matters.
The best way to create velocity in the sales funnel is to get prospects to lean-in to you. If you have to pull them through the funnel, that can take a long time. But if they deeply want what you offer, then things move quickly. This is why so many service firms talk about pain points.
But is this the best way to accelerate the sales funnel? I don’t think so. Here are my reasons and an alternative approach I’d like to recommend to you.
Why companies talk about pain points
It’s easy to understand why companies want to start a conversation with pain points. These tend to be top of mind with whomever you might do business. They are great hooks that get a conversation started.
If you’re not sure what I mean, take a look at the websites for many leading service and B2B firms. You’ll find something closely related to pain points in primary navigation for a lot of these companies. They may not use that exact language, but I’ll bet it’s close.
Euphemisms for pain points include concerns, problems, challenges, difficulties, obstacles, worries, barriers and generally those things that hold you back. I believe companies use pain points as a way to accomplish something I call psychological identification. This is a powerful rhetorical technique that is used to cause someone to say – wow you really do understand me.
Goals, challenges and opportunities
When we first engage with new clients, we ask them about their ideal clients. Our goal is to develop a deep understanding of what matters to their prospective clients. To accomplish this, we conduct qualitative research with current clients who resemble the type of people our clients would like to work with in the future.
When we conduct the qualitative research, we focus on three areas: goals, opportunities and challenges. Here is how we define these.
Goals are the set of objectives that the client absolutely must achieve. For our clients who serve businesses, goals are the substance of their job. For instance, a CFO gets paid to ensure the company manages cash-flow wisely and never runs out of money. The CFO must accomplish this goal or they will lose their job and maybe even their career.
Goals will always get funded while challenges and opportunities may or may not get funded.
For our clients who serve individuals, goals are typically the substance of the dreams they want to see come true. For instance, in the financial services space, retiring comfortably, sending children to a good college and building wealth are all goals that financial advisors get paid to accomplish.
Opportunities are those ideas that excite people. These are the concepts that spark their imagination and get their juices flowing. For instance, in the IT consulting space, an opportunity might be a powerful new high-speed network that can improve the productivity of the company.
Challenges, or what are often called pain points, are those things that frustrate people. But not all challenges are of the same size or significance. Some are merely nuisances. Others may prevent people from achieving their goals and realizing their opportunities. For instance, in the coaching arena, a lack of understanding or will to implement best practices may prevent a company from achieving their goals.
Why goals are better than challenges for creating velocity
When you think about these three, which do you believe are most likely to be funded: goals, opportunities or challenges? My answer? It will be goals every single time. Why do I say this?
Because goals are those things which absolutely must be achieved. No exceptions. More importantly, goals are those things for which line items already exist on most budgets.
Opportunities may get funded – if there is enough budget and if you can convince a committee of decision-influencers that it’s a good opportunity. But usually, opportunities are the last things to be funded.
Challenges, on the other hand, may or may not be funded, depending on how significant they are to the decision-maker. Many challenges are mere frustrations, annoyances really. But I want to ask you something. How many annoyances do you put up with every day?
It is amazing to me how many people learn to live with frustrations. Does your boss frustrate you? And yet, you put up with him or her. Does your significant other drive you crazy sometimes? And yet you put up with them. I don’t know about you, but I could probably make a list in about 10 minutes of 25 or more things I would like to fix – if only I had time and budget.
But I don’t have either enough time or budget. And neither do the people you want to connect with and serve. But goals are not like that. They are not those things we would prefer to do. Goals must be achieved.
An illustration from the financial services industry
We have clients in the financial services industry who serve affluent families. All of these clients want pretty much the same things. They want to retire comfortably, send their children to good colleges, care for aging loved ones, protect the wealth they’ve worked so hard to accumulate and practice charity to causes for which they feel passion.
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of obstacles that could prevent these people from achieving their goals. They may not earn enough income. An income-earner could pass away. The stock market could crash. They could be sued. More likely, they could not practice the financial discipline necessary to save and invest enough.
But do our clients focus on the challenges – the obstacles? No. They focus on the goals. This approach not only serves them well, it glues the client to them for life.
An illustration from the healthcare industry
We have a client in the healthcare field. Their clients want to prevent disease, manage the symptoms of aging, avoid debilitating surgeries, improve their energy and regain the vigor of youth. Does this healthcare company talk about the challenges? No. The challenges are obvious. As people age, they lose muscle, gain fat, lose brain function and contract diseases. Everyone knows that.
Instead, our client talks about the goals of living longer, being incredibly vibrant and healthy at nearly any age and making your retirement years the best years of your life. More importantly, they can prove that their medical program delivers those results because of the documonials we built for them.
An illustration from the IT consulting industry
You might be thinking – well that’s all fine and good for those high-touch industries but that won’t work for an analytical and deeply technical industry. Oh contraire.
A few years ago we began working with an enterprise architecture consulting organization. This is a highly specialized area of IT consulting for very large companies who have substantial investments in legacy IT systems that are expensive to support and maintain. It’s very difficult to get applications and data from mainframe systems to talk to PCs running Windows. This is why your wait times on calls with big companies are so long.
But these companies learn to live with the challenges. There are all sorts of problems and they put up with them every day and ask their customers to do the same. Until something happens.
When a challenge reaches the point that it begins to cost the company dearly, the challenge is translated into a goal – and then a magical thing happens. Budgets appear.
Our client was retained by a large financial institution to rationalize their technology requirements across the entire enterprise. Our client was given one mantra. Come back to us with a plan to cut our IT costs by 25% while increasing speed by 50%.
My point is simply this. Challenges can hang around for years and never get funding. But goals nearly always get funded and quickly. They create velocity in the sales funnel.
How to use goals to create velocity
Content marketing is the single best way to stimulate leaning-in behavior. If you build a content marketing strategy that speaks primarily to the goals that your clients want to accomplish, they won’t be able to resist your content. If you’d like to know how to do this effectively, I recommend you register for an Action Guide I’ve built called 7 Steps To A Content Marketing Program That Consistently Yields Ideal Clients.
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