Sales organizations all over the world are sounding a similar alarm: the days of feature/benefit presentations are over.  Your audience is more educated, and has access to more information, than your dad’s audience: they already know all the features, and probably the benefits, too.

It’s a hyperaware culture. We feel dizzy, we google “feeling dizzy” to see what obscure disease we might have. We get half our news and most of our product recommendations from social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Awareness, more and more, is the easier part of the equation for people with a message to share with the world; it’s differentiation that causes struggle. And since none of us compete in our own backyard anymore, and some upstart from Arizona or Brazil or England can compete for our deals and exposure at a moment’s notice, it’s no longer wise to sit back and let the audience just compare features and benefits and make decisions. We have to engage more deeply.

We hear and read a lot these days about the loneliness of life in the digital age—how Twitter and Facebook don’t replace real relationships. There are a lot of blog posts out there about signals vs. noise. The best presentations we’ve ever seen were conceived from a certain viewpoint: people are still people, and meeting people’s core needs transcends time and technology.

It used to be that if you built a solution, product or service with features that matched up with the audience’s needs, that was enough to answer the core buying motivation: do you understand me, and can I trust you enough to get started? There wasn’t, or they weren’t aware of, too many other options to what you offered.

How has this changed? We assume, from the get-go, that our audience has tens, hundreds, or thousands of options for what to buy or who to listen to. Creating quality products or services that meet needs is just the entry fee to the rodeo; we still have to ride the bull. The key to success, to moving past the hyperawareness and hyper-access of our audience, is to sell pain relief. Our quality products and/or services warrant the conversation, but it’s our ability to understand and address our audience’s pain, to demonstrate that we would be an excellent relationship for removing that pain, that makes us the winner.

When your next presentation opportunity rolls around, and it’s time to brainstorm the central theme and angle, try white-boarding all of the audience’s pain points, organizing them by severity and priority, and identifying the ways in which you can address their pain during the time allotted for your presentation. It may feel like you’re spending too little time on the actual features and benefits of your product, but chances are they already know the gist anyway. Better to help them understand how valuable you can be to them, how you can take away their pain. If you do this, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk features and benefits later, when they ask you as a trusted partner in solving problems.

Question: How do you and your team identify your audience’s pain points?

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