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Pain, Power and Fit = Sales

What you need to get the Customer to say YES!

This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK.

As sales and marketing strategists, a lot of our work is done with companies of all sizes, who are bringing new offerings to market.  This could be their first “flagship” offering, a new line of business they are entering, or a line extension into a different vertical industry.  An unfortunate, yet common, thread among many of these clients is their lack of market research during product development, BEFORE they enter the market.  For some reason, the vast majority of these clients think they “just know” what the market wants, without asking.  As if, like Carnack on Johnny Carson, they can read their customers’ minds.   In the vast majority of instances (I know, everybody can point to an exception to this rule, but who wants to build their business around an exception?) this just doesn’t work.

If you don’t truly know what the market will find valuable, how it should be configured and priced, what the business case is, and who it should be sold to, your offering will be a failure.  You will waste six or more months in the market, your revenues will not meet expectations, and you’ll be back at the drawing board scratching your head and frustrated.  This has been proven over and over again.

New technology or products are fascinating but, like a better mousetrap, having a better technology or product won’t necessarily cause customers to beat a path to your door.  You have to provide an offering the market wants and is willing to pay for.  There must be a compelling reason for customers to buy with a measurable and significant ROI.

On a practical level, wouldn’t you like to know in advance whether your new offering has a chance to succeed?  Whether customers will not just look, but buy?  Something that would help you reduce the risk of failure to a fraction of what it is today?  It would be like having a crystal ball which shows you the future. There is a way!   

It all boils down to three things: Pain, Power, and Fit. 

  • Is the problem you solve PAINful enough that customers will buy?
  • Do the customers experiencing this PAIN have the POWER to buy?
  • Does your solution FIT the problem better than anybody else’s? 

If you can answer these questions with a resounding, “Yes!” there is a good chance that there is a market for your offering.  If not, watch out!  There will be rough seas ahead. 


Is the problem you solve PAINful enough that customers will buy and not just kick the tires?

Individuals, for the most part, hate change.  When you are introducing a new product or service, you are asking customers to change the way they do things.  They will resist this change until the problem is painful enough that they have to act.  For example, until their costs are so high that they must find a new way to reduce or control them.  Or, until their productivity is so low that they must find innovative ways to improve it.  You get the picture. 

How do you know if the PAIN is great enough for customers to act?  Consider these three questions:

  • Is this problem critical; is it one of the top 3 priorities of the organization?
  • Is the problem recognized as critical by someone with power to buy?
  • Is the business case strong enough to justify spending the dollars it will take to buy and implement your solution? 

If your answers to all three questions are a resounding, “Yes!” the Pain is sufficient for customers to buy, and you are one-third of the way there.


Do the customers experiencing this PAIN have the POWER to buy?

I can’t tell you how many times in my career I have heard this lament, “I talked to the customer and they admit they have a problem, but I can’t get them make the purchase.”

Why?  Because they don’t have the power to buy.  Sufficient pain will make buyers want to buy, but if they don’t have power, they can’t.  Simple as that.  This means, no customer or revenue for you.  So, it’s important when assessing your market opportunity to understand whether the buyer with the PAIN truly has the POWER to make a purchase decision.

How do you know if they have POWER?  Consider these three questions:

  • Do they own the PAIN?  Is it their responsibility to solve it?
  • Do they have, or can they find, the money to purchase?
  • Do they have the leadership skills required to navigate their organization’s purchase process? 

If you can honestly answer, “Yes!” to these questions, you have a customer who both can and will buy.  You’re almost there.


Does your solution FIT the problem better than anybody else’s?

If you have both Pain and Power, you have a customer who needs to solve a problem and can make a purchase.  Great start!  The question now is whether you have something to offer them that has advantages over all the other possible solutions in the market.  That is, if you have the best FIT.

How do you know if you have the best FIT?  Consider these questions:

  • Is your product suitable for the market?  Does it meet appropriate standards?
  • Will it integrate well with systems that currently exist in the customer’s environment?
  • Does your product provide the customers with an advantage over doing it themselves?
  • Is your offering unique and significantly better than your competitors’ products (emphasis here on the word “significantly”)?  Is there a reason for customers to buy from you instead of them? 

You know the drill by now.  If you can answer these questions positively, you’ve got good FIT.   

And if you’ve got PAIN, POWER and FIT, you’ve got a winner.  All you need now is an innovative go-to market plan and you’re off and running.

And now, one last thing!  How did you get the answers to the questions above?  Did you “just know” them?  Did you sit around the conference room with your team and figure them out?  Or, did you go to the market and ask prospects, customers and partners for the answers.  If you didn’t ask the market, start over.  The only valid answers you will get to these questions are the ones you get from customers, prospects and partners. 

We’d like to hear from you!  If you have ideas about how companies can bring their products to market more effectively, let us know.  Tell us your stories and experiences.  We’d also like to learn about the processes, methods and tools you use to be successful.  We’ll share the feedback in a future article.

  • Bob Butchko 

    Bob is a veteran technology entrepreneur with more than 20 years experience managing technology companies at all phases of their development, typically at the level of president or CEO. Bob has both extensive Silicon Valley experience and considerable government sector knowledge and marketing expertise. He has founded, turned-around and taken companies public in a variety of disciplines, including hardware, software and the Internet. Bob's expertise carries a particular emphasis on turnaround and transition scenarios, and positioning companies to tap emerging markets. Bob can be reached at C-Level Leadership LLC. 703-245-1270 or

  • Susan Kearney 

    Susan is an entrepreneurial Senior Executive with a proven track record of success in marketing and selling high tech solutions for companies ranging from large, publicly held corporations to entrepreneurial startups. Her career includes leadership positions in corporate and field marketing, sales and business development, operations, and consulting. Working for companies like Comshare, IRI, Oracle, and Paragren Technologies, her focus has been on helping businesses streamline and automate sales, marketing, financial, and other operational functions. Susan can be reached at C-Level Leadership LLC. 703-245-1270 or


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