One of my clients, who works in the construction industry, was bragging about one of his sales representatives to me a while back. This representative made good use of an unexpected order to discover more about the company requesting it.
This sales representative saw an order for a part replacement that seemed out of place. It was a decently-sized order, but it wasn't a product line that was typically ordered at that volume, and the client hadn't placed an order in some time before then.
After looking at this client's records, the sales representative called the client. He said, "I've noticed you've placed this order and we'll be happy to get it out to you—but before we do, can I ask why you've placed an order for this product? It doesn't look like you typically buy this product."
Talk about going out on a limb! But this sales representative was confident enough in his knowledge about how these parts were usually purchased that he could tell something was unusual in this order. In fact, he suspected the client had bought a competitor's product.
The client told him that he was actually ordering the part at the contractor's request. This wasn't a surprise to the sales representative, and he kept asking questions to uncover more of the real reasons behind this unexpected order.
The representative discovered that the client had, in fact, been buying a competitor's product. But so many of the contractors this client works with preferred my client's product that he finally felt compelled to purchase from them.
His unexpected order seemed out of left field for my client and his sales representative, but this customer of theirs had been gradually moving toward that decision for a while.
The representative used the pain funnel really well. He kept asking questions until he figured out this client's pain.
If you keep asking questions, you can find out your prospect's pain. But more importantly, the prospect will discover for themselves why they should do business with you based on their pain.