I’ve never really liked the old ‘Painkiller vs. Vitamin’ selling metaphor. And I’ve been repeatly drawn to this topic, maybe because I hear this old meme so often. It’s too simplistic and often becomes an excuse for sales teams when they miss their numbers, with the claim that ‘Customers only buy painkillers, not vitamins.’

Well, this morning, I had an aha moment—that this metaphor is all about Pain and neglects the aspect of Benefit. We need a second dimension. We need to diagnose the market’s pain points more precisely and prescribe a course of action that delivers more substantial, varied benefits.

So I grabbed the nearest napkin, sketched this out, like what I saw, and jammed it into a readable sketch in Google Slide. Here’s what I came with, call it the Pain-Benefit Matrix.

This matrix is a more nuanced approach, recognizing the varying intensities of pain but, crucially, also considering the types of benefits that solutions can provide. It’s not just about whether a solution acts as a painkiller or a vitamin; it’s about understanding the tactical to strategic benefits these solutions bring to the table. After all, painkillers and vitamins/preventative cures are huge industries, so in some ways, the metaphor is broke from the start.

Each quadrant of this matrix offers a distinct value proposition, reflecting both the nature of the customer’s pain and the strategic benefit of the solution. Let’s debunk the myth that customers are only interested in painkillers and explore how each type of solution can be compelling, and the implications of each type on B2B Sales and Marketing approaches.

The Tactical “Painkiller” for Acute/Isolated Pain: Immediate Relief Sure, painkillers are vital for addressing immediate, acute pains, akin to a headache. They are tactical, offering quick and direct relief. But the benefit here isn’t just relief; it’s the ability to quickly overcome an obstacle and maintain operational flow. It’s like taking Tylenol to get rid of that headache.

Sales Implications:

  • Emphasize rapid problem resolution.
  • Utilize a consultative sales approach to understand and address the specific pain point.

Marketing Implications:

  • Craft targeted campaigns that highlight the immediate benefits and quick action.
  • Use case studies and testimonials to demonstrate quick wins.

The “Vitamin” for Chronic/Systemic Pain: Preventative or Systemic Care The value of “vitamins” or other treatments for chronic, systemic issues, is often overlooked or negated when thinking about B2B sales. Like statins to treat high cholesterol or Vitamin C to prevent scurvy, these solutions offer strategic, long-term benefits, contributing to the sustained health and resilience of a business. Far from being unnecessary, they are crucial in preventing larger problems down the line.

Sales Implications:

  • Engage in longer sales cycles with a focus on strategic change and gains
  • Educate customers on the long-term benefits and ROI of a proactive solution.

Marketing Implications:

  • Develop content that speaks to long-term benefits and overall business health.
  • Use educational materials to raise awareness of the systemic issues and the curative power of the product.

The Strategic “Cure” for Acute/Isolated Pain: Comprehensive Solution Cures go beyond the immediate relief provided by painkillers by offering a strategic, long-term solution to acute problems, addressing the root cause and preventing recurrence. This quadrant highlights the need for solutions that not only solve the problem but also integrate into the client’s broader strategic goals.

Sales Implications:

  • Position the solution as a strategic investment that addresses the root cause.
  • Tailor presentations to show the comprehensive and lasting benefits of the solution.

Marketing Implications:

  • Develop more content that simplifies and explains the strategic advantages of the product in customer terms.
  • Highlight long-term success stories and post-solution transformation.

The Transformative “Superpower” for Chronic/Systemic Pain Superpowers are transformative solutions for chronic, systemic issues. They offer a strategic advantage that transcends mere problem-solving, enabling new capabilities or significant improvements in performance. They are strategic, not just in resolving current issues but in setting a new direction for the company’s future. Think of this like the transformative power of a new diet, exercise and sleep routine!

Sales Implications:

  • Employ a challenger sales strategy driven by a leading story of change and strategic advantage
  • Focus on the transformative impact of the solution on the customer’s business operations and results

Marketing Implications:

  • Craft a visionary narrative that aligns with the customer’s aspirations.
  • Leverage thought leadership and industry influencers to drive the message of transformation.

This expanded view challenges the notion that customers are only interested in immediate solutions to acute problems. It emphasizes the importance of understanding the customer’s pain in its entirety and aligning solutions with both their immediate needs and their long-term strategic goals.

The Pain-Benefit Matrix not only broadens our perspective beyond the limited view of ‘painkillers’ but also highlights the diverse range of benefits that we can offer to customers. It’s time to move past the outdated metaphor and embrace a more nuanced and comprehensive approach.

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