Enterprise customers may not really understand their pain points

We often hear tech people (especially among entrepreneurs) who claim to solve pain points for enterprise customers, such as:
“We’ve talked with a number of customers in the retail industry, and found their pain point in common.” 
“Our product will solve the pain point in finance/insurance/energy…”

But in reality, only a few can successfully do that. Typical startups or tech companies develop their solutions with initial customers and build decent solutions which are at least better than those being used. However these solutions may not be wildly accepted, and fade away at last. At least 90% of the startups fail, and I believe a similar failure rate exists for the enterprise product.

Why is it so hard? A rarely mentioned fact is that almost every company has their pain points, and good companies usually have a high degree of endurance of such pain. 
The pain point of high expense? It is not a big deal as long as the sale number is growing. And for most profitable business, there is always an option of borrowing money from banks or introducing new investors.
The pain point of consuming a lot of human resources? Big companies are never afraid of hiring more contractors or employees, and there are professional organizing for outsourcing.

Just like consumers may not know exactly what they want, enterprises may not know what are their true pain points. If one pain point is endurable, the enterprise can still stand it and may not take any big action to solve it. A good example is in 2010 health care industry still relied on pagers but refused to take new mobile messaging platform developed by TigerText.

Then the problem comes: if the pain points enterprise customers told you are not really their pain points, how can we sell our solution to them?

From my experience, I believe it is critical to listen to not only customers’ pain point, but also understand customers’ priority, as well as their existing pipeline. I call them 3Ps for enterprise customers.

The first P, pain point, is to ask the customer what is the pain point that we can help, i.e., what is bordering them, although keep in mind they may not have the resource or time to solve it.

The second P, priority, is to understand what ranks top on customers’ todo list. In big companies, every executive has dozens of to-do items on his list. Moreover, such to-do list keeps changing from day to day. If one new idea does not appear on the top of the to-do list, there is a chance that this idea will never be tried.

The last P, pipeline, is often overlooked. In modern society, the Internet (also the stock market) often gives us the delusion that companies are expert of the technology and they can implement everything if they want to. On the contrary, every company is functioning through some pipelines and sometimes are not flexible to change . Just like Rome was not built in one day, every company has practiced and developed its pipeline over years. If we do not understand the pipeline of enterprise customers, we may not realize that some products cannot be adopted smoothly.

Salesforce is one great example of understanding the 3Ps. When Marc Benioff and his co-founders started the company, he oversaw not only the pain-point of collecting customer information. In addition, he realized that the pipeline in big companies are always substantial and the tech teams are often slow in adopting new tools. However, for salespeople, their building and maintaining CRM is of their priority. Salesforce builds the strategy of targeting at salespeople and educates the customers well enough so the company can enjoy the miracle of an increasing CRM market.