A good proposition solves pain

“Utrechter sells sand to the desert state of Qatar”. Ben Agterberg made it to the news sites and the newspapers. Sell sand to someone who lives in the desert?

How? The answer turns out to be simple. The Utrechter sells special sand for the jumping boxes in which precious jumping horses roam. Desert sand is also not suitable for construction. Therefore, it is imported from other countries. For example from the Netherlands.

Desert areas also need good sand. They do not have the right material themselves and experience a certain amount of pain. Without that pain, Ben Agterberg would have had to figure out other ways to wear down his sand.

Are you selling a nice-to-have or a must-have?

No Pain, No Sales! Many organizations forget that this is what it's all about.

What about your company? What pain do you solve? And do you know how to draw attention to that?

Ask yourself whether your product or service is a must-have or a nice-to-have for your customers. A must-have sells much more easily than a nice-to-have.

Think you've got your hands on a must-have?

Then the follow-up question is what would happen if your product or service was unavailable for a month, week, day or hour. Are your customers in pain within an hour? Then your products or services should go over the counter like hot cakes. Customers should be willing to pay well for your product or service.

Tip: These 16 factors have a major influence on the business value [Infographic]

Pain in the primary process

Take as an example a company that makes warehouse management software. Production companies cannot do without it.

In case of problems, the assembly line stops, hundreds of people are twiddling their thumbs, trucks are lined up in front of the door and end customers do not receive their products on time. Ouch! The product immediately has a major impact on the primary process.

Pain is not the same for everyone

Now it is too simplistic to think that warehouse management software solves the same pain for all customers and is therefore equally important. What is experienced as a pain point for one customer, does not cause any problem for another.

For example, they have work-arounds or backup systems to be less dependent on your product.

It's all about the risk, which is expressed as chance x impact.

One of the best examples of this is my assignment at the Academic Hospital Maastricht (nowadays MUMC+) in 2008.

The hospital started to house almost all processes in SAP. I was ultimately responsible for testing the implementation of this multi-million Euro ERP package. Since it is impossible to test everything, I started with a risk assessment.

Sub-areas such as Finance, HR, Purchasing and Sales, which are usually part of the primary process, were regarded by the hospital as tertiary processes. SAP topics such as Patient Registration, Scheduling Appointments and Clinical Residence Registration (read: where are you in the hospital) were also of secondary importance.

Most test hours had to go to the Hospital Information System (HIS). Negative headlines were lurking when this part did not function properly. The rest could be solved with a work-around.

In short, solving pains is not the same for everyone. Think about this when developing your proposition.

Waste as a form of pain

Yet there are many companies that are very successful and that do not solve direct pain or are indispensable in the primary process. They often offer a demonstrable way to prevent waste.

Tip: say NO to new customers

Thanks to their service or product, customers are able to save time (and money). A useful basic question to ask yourself is about the Return On Investment. Can a company work 10, 20, 30 or more percent more efficiently thanks to your product? Nice! Do these benefits outweigh the costs and can the investment be recouped within the foreseeable future? Twice as beautiful. That results in a win-win situation.

A useful method to determine where you can eliminate waste is to look at the different forms of Waste. Taiichi Ohno was the founder of this principle.

He thought of Toyota's LEAN principle. He came up with seven forms of waste; a number that was later supplemented with an eighth form.

LeanSixSigma has devised the mnemonic TIMWOODS for the eight forms of waste. See where your product or service offers added value within the parts within TIMWOODS.

This way you get your proposition even sharper.

PAIN storms

To arrive at a good proposition, you can think further about unique selling points and work out your WHY.

Another smart way is to run a PAIN storm. The four letters of this term stand for:

  • persona; who is your product or service intended for? Try to make as complete a description as possible and mention industry, size (in money or employees) and culture. If it concerns a person, think about the use of color segments, norms and values or other characteristics such as gender or age. The more detailed the better. Often you have to deal with different personae. That's why detailing is so important.
  • aactivities; what activities do these persons or company carry out? Make a detailed description of the most important end-2-end processes or sub-processes. Determine which processes your company can or wants to influence.
  • issues; where in the activities or processes do you see forms of waste or pain? As with activities, it is valuable to involve your intended audience in the PAIN storm. He knows better than anyone where the pain is.
  • Noath; what solution is possible? This is the basis of your product or service. Do you not yet have a solution for all components? Not feared; include the most important points in your product roadmap.

After completing the PAIN storm, it is a good idea to validate the results with a larger group. Then think about the next step: displaying your proposition.

A solution sells itself (almost)

Is there a good ROI for your customers and does your product/service nestle in the primary process or primary need? Then your solution should be able to sell itself.

Of course you have to successfully land the product with a first group of customers. Once you have the first customers, you can make smart use of this. Growth Hacking is an example of how companies like Hotmail, Salesforce and SurveyMonkey have grown rapidly.

SurveyMonkey and Hotmail growth hacks 

Take this last company as an example. SurveyMonkey solves a pain for millions of students. Thanks to the web solution, you can quickly put together a questionnaire with a few simple actions.

You can then easily analyze the results and voilà: your research is ready for 80%. By offering the service for free, SurveyMonkey reached millions of people. Every survey is provided with smart growth hacks.

Anyone who completes a survey cannot ignore the name of the company. Because students often write to companies, a snowball effect quickly arose. Thanks to smart calls to action and the many free questionnaires, the company managed to realize no less than $254.3 million in turnover in 2018.

Companies do have to pay for the service.

Hotmail has also grown in the same way. In the early years, every e-mail contained the sentence 'PS: I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail.' The result:

Microsoft created a new sales channel to sell products and services. In just 18 months, Hotmail managed to grow to 12 million accounts. Smart!

Tip: why payment term? Prepayment is much better

Back to the drawing board

Are you unable to acquire customers, despite a good ROI or position in the primary process? Then go back to the drawing board and check out my tips.

Apparently you're not doing something quite right. But don't give up. If you have a nice solution for the pain experienced by a specific target group, you can significantly increase your business value.

Keep George Bell's story in mind. While CEO of search engine Excite in 1999, he was offered to buy Google for $1 million.

The Google founders wanted to focus on their studies and hoped for a profitable sales. Bell didn't like it. When the Google guys dropped the price to $750,000, it was Bell's business partners who blocked the deal.

That this setback was a gift to the founders of Google, they will realize every day.

No Pain, No Sale, but in this case it brought something positive! 

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