For decades, sales trainers have told us about the need to find a prospect’s “pain.” What is hurting? What is it costing? What is the cost of ignoring that pain? Who do we see is hurting the most? What is it worth to find a solution to that pain? Follow the long path to “pain”, and you will be successful, they have said.
They are wrong.
It’s time to stop wasting the customer’s time. Stop looking for “pain.” Look for ways to help instead.
Today, people do not have time to invite you to make a presentation and endure a series of “pain” questions. When you get an invitation to sell to a prospect, you should know how the prospect sees the problem before you show up. You don’t need to probe to find what’s causing the pain or whose pain it is or whether it is a financial pain or a personal pain. Clarify the issues and know the desired outcome before you go to the meeting. Learn what you need to know without seeking out “pain.” Stop wasting everyone’s time. Prospects want to focus on their idea and how to solve their problem. And they don’t want the meeting to last very long.
I occasionally get invited to propose a “team-building” workshop. I generally don’t do team-building workshops any more. When someone asks for one because his or her team is not working well, I often shoot myself in the foot by stating that, in my experience, most requests for such action are due to one person being a problem. I ask, “Any chance that might be the case here? If so, why don’t we look at how to help that person and not waste the time of the whole team?” In nearly every case, the prospect appreciates the insight. I hear a response such as, “That’s a really intriguing idea. I think you might be right. Let me think about it for a bit.” And that is the end of it. There is no more discussion with me about team building. Or about coaching the problem person. I didn’t fit THEIR solution. Shame on me.
Prospects are not interested in being “challenged”or probed about their “pain.”
In most cases, prospects have a good idea as to what they want. They are not interested in being “challenged” or probed about their “pain.” They simply don’t have the time or the patience. They are interested, instead, in learning if they feel they can work with you and get their desired outcome. They want to see if you are a good fit and can work with them.
Sell YOU as someone who can help implement their solution
This leads to a major adjustment in how sellers must sell. First, remember you have been invited to allow the prospects to decide if they want to work with you. Can there be a relationship? In short, the presentation must sell YOU as someone with whom they can partner and help implement a solution, a solution that is may or may not be well defined. If you try to sell YOUR solution before you sell YOU, you will fail. Connect on both a conscious and unconscious level. Become someone the prospect will trust before you even talk about what you want to sell. (If you don’t know how to do this, read “The Unfair Advantage: Sell with NLP!”)
Can you avoid focusing on your solution and focus, instead, on theirs? How quickly can you stop presenting and actually engage your prospect? If you did your homework, you will know what the prospect is trying to accomplish. Get him/her to talk about that. Listen for what is wanted and look for how you can help. Talk about outcomes rather than pain.
Duane Lakin, Ph.D., is the author of “The Unfair Advantage: Sell with NLP!” and a new book, “Ten Ways Top Sales Reps are Different.”