Be a Pain Seeker

Pain.  It’s the most powerful emotion we feel as a human.  It’s also the reason why people will do business with you.  Do people buy on “pleasure”?  Sure.  But, it’s not as powerful.  Think about it.  What causes you to change quicker, being in pain or being excited about something?  Do you run faster towards someone you love or faster when running from danger?  I hope I made my point.  

If we can agree that pain is a huge motivator for us all, wouldn’t it make sense that without it we simply move along, looking to stay comfortable?  As a buyer, particularly with big purchases, aren’t we much more likely to buy if we are in some form of discomfort or pain?  If you’re moving into a larger house, your pain may be that the bedrooms are too small, you have grown tired of the neighbors, the commute to work is wearing on you or maybe the school that you send your kids to each day is no longer meeting your needs.  Now, no doubt that people make decisions intellectually, but we buy emotionally.  Said another way, for salespeople, no pain means no sale.  Now, they may still buy without it, but there is a high probability that if a buyer is happy with what or who they are using, have no issues and in no pain, they won’t be changing.  Again, change comes when we are not happy, worried, frustrated, concerned, upset or disappointed with the product or service that we are currently using.  Studies show that without pain, they will only switch if you are at least 15% lower with price.  I don’t think you read articles like this if this is where you position your company.

So often, I see individuals and companies “hanging in there” way too long.  They are taught to be persistent, but have no idea when to give up or that their chances are slim.  They will tell you that if they wouldn’t have called on the prospect as long as they did, they never would have closed the business.  Although this may be true, I wonder to myself how many more new opportunities they could have sought out, opportunities that were waiting for them, had they moved on sooner.  But, because they were “following-up” with the countless companies that had no pain, and had no intention of switching services, they ran out of time to call on them.  

A question we get often in our training is, “when do you know when to give up on a company and move on?”  The answer should be clear to you at this point.  The answer?  If you can’t find that they have pain in the first conversation, it could be over.  Why would you want to continue to send them information, leave voicemails, drop by on them or even “check-in” from time to time, if they have no pain and no intention of changing?  There are likely many organizations that are actually in pain, right now.  These companies need your service but don’t even know you exist at the moment.  They would say, “yes” to you right now, but they don’t know about you and that you are the answer to their problems.  They don’t know about you, because you’ve ran out of time, and haven’t called them.  We have to become pain seekers looking for pain to fix.  

What is pain to them, you ask?  Pain, when it comes to the sales field, comes in two categories:  pain over what the product or service is not doing for you or how the

current supplier is lacking.  For example, take a commercial property.  They may be upset that the property does not look inviting to new tenants.  It could be that the landscaping is lackluster, there are weeds growing in between the cracks in the sidewalk and all of this is causing potential tenants to look elsewhere.  This is causing office space vacancies in their building, which is affecting their bottom-line.  Pain.

Or, it could be that their current lawn maintenance company or landscaper isn’t attentive to details.  They could be difficult to communicate with, aren’t responsive, “nickel-and-dime” them for every small extra or maybe they simply don’t do a thorough enough job.  In result, they have to waste time walking the property, checking on their work.  They have to call them two or three times in order to finally have an issue be resolved.  Pain.

As a training and development organization, we offer a myriad of techniques and questioning strategies in order to “find their pain”.  Some of which are outlined here:

  • Don’t tell them what you do, tell them the types of situations you can help with.  At some point during your sales calls, you will be asked to tell them about your company.  Please don’t tell them about your “experience”, your “expertise”, your “certifications” or how you do “great work”.  They don’t believe you and you will sound like everyone else out there.  Agree?  To be humorous for a moment, no company out there tells people they don’t work hard, don’t know what they are doing and won’t be on time.  What do they say, instead?  You guessed it; “we’re faster, stronger, better”.  If we all say similar things, how are we perceived?  Like everyone else.
  • Ask them questions about what they are worried about, concerned with, upset about or frustrated with.  When we ask these types of questions it creates an opportunity for us to qualify or disqualify them for pain.  Remember, if they don’t have pain, they are highly unlikely to change or switch to your product or service.  And, if they do, it will have to be because you offered some big concessions.  Not what we recommend.  On the other hand, find something they don’t like or have been growing weary of and you might have them discover that you can do a better job.
  • Ask them open-ended questions that begin with the words, “who, what, where, when, why and how”.  Yeah, that’s right.  Those six words we learned in fourth grade.  Believe it or not, even in role-plays that we do in training sessions, with experienced salespeople, open-ended questions are not used enough.  In result, they aren’t able to find the pain because they hear too many “yes/no” answers and find themselves at a dead-end.  For the years that we’ve tracked it, clients will use open to close-ended questions at a ratio of 1:6!  Meaning, for every open-ended question they ask, they ask six close-ended questions.  Not good.  Talk about a short conversation!
  • If they can’t tell you what their pain is:  act, sound and behave skeptical.  When you meet someone for the first time, oftentimes they either don’t understand that they have pain, or don’t want to share it with a stranger.  Expect this.  We have to be better at asking the right questions and making better statements, in order to help them discover it.  When we act skeptical, it will help draw out their discomfort.  As example, if we can say, “sounds like under no circumstance would you consider another source, even if it was better”.  Sometimes, you will hear, “that’s right” (no pain).  Other times you may hear, “well, what’s your lead time right now?” (potential pain of poor deliveries or hard to schedule).  This doesn’t mean you’ll make a sale, but I would want you to ask them lots of questions about what they just said.
    • You’re probably bringing up deliveries for a reason?
    • How long have you been concerned about this?
    • What have you tried to do about current delivery problems?  How well did it work?
    • You wouldn’t likely switch services simply because of deliveries would you?
    • By the way, how have deliveries hurt what you are trying to do?
    • What other concerns have you had with them?
    • When was the last time you looked at changing services, for things like deliveries?

These are the types of questions you can ask, in order to take this conversation deeper into pain.  Sometimes you arrive all the way to the end of the process, whereby they will invite you in to speak further.  Sometimes, it doesn’t go deep at all, and there is no reason to meet.  Either way, it’s a victory.  You either have a qualified appointment or a disqualified one.  After all, if you’re not going to get a sale, when would you like to find out?  Right away, you say?  Exactly!  Time is money.  I don’t know about you, but most of us don’t need more practice quoting.

Note:  Don’t be tempted to immediately fix their problem when you hear it.  It sounds “salesy”.  i.e., “You have a problem with communication?  If there’s one thing we do well, it’s communication”.  Ugg.  Stereo-typical salesperson.  Ask more questions about it instead.

Be a pain seeker, looking for pain to fix.  Without it; all you have is another “suspect” that will allow you to follow-up, check-in, drop-by and visit with because you were “in the area”.  No pain.  Next time you are looking to make a major purchase yourself, use it as a reminder to help your sales career.  No pain means no sale.