Marinate in the Pain

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All decisions made by humans are to seek pleasure and to avoid pain - we are by nature hedonists.  However, people are more motivated to avoid pain then to seek pleasure. People are more motivated to avoid a current pain than a future pain. Adding an emotional component to it magnifies the desire to get out of pain. If you are being chased by a lion would you stop to grab a suitcase of money on the side of the road? Obviously not, the desire to not get mauled (avoiding pain) is more powerful than the desire to have the money (seeking pleasure). This applies to business as well, however most companies don’t take advantage of this human propensity in their sales strategies.

The goal is to get your clients to marinate in the pain, to just sit there in the muck and agony.  The more painful you make your clients’ current situation seem, the more desperate they will be to address it and, voila! you are there to offer them a solution. Don’t let your excitement to show off your product to the client displace a true sales strategy. All sales people know the power of a good discovery before jumping into the heart of the meeting. Discovery is a great time to start the discussion about current pain. Then, in your pitch, start with a slide about the art of the possible, the vision of what a perfect world looks like. Get everyone in the room nodding, agreeing, yes, that would be ideal!

The biggest mistake made at this juncture is to take your client on a path to seek pleasure (your solution) versus avoiding pain (deeper discovery). Smart pitches, after taking the client to the high of what is possible, plunges the client into the depths of pain - why this utopian vision is not possible today. Skilled sales people get the client creating a list of pain points, then they stay there and let the client marinate in it.  They have the client tell horror stories or illustrate frustrations to fully flush out the pain. And then they take it deeper, make it personal - “Did you have to come in and miss a weekend with your family? That stinks.” They stir them in the pain until they can almost feel them begging to be rescued. Time to come in on your white horse and show them how uniquely qualified the solution is so they do not have to go back to the depths of pain ever again. 

The idealists in the room are saying: that is manipulative, the client will inherently see the value, I don’t need to do that. However, the reality is taking your client on an emotional journey is an essential part of sales. How many commercials tug at your heartstrings to get you to feel a connection to their product? As a salesperson you are one big commercial for your product. That is your job - to create a powerful experience so your client bonds with you and the product.

The basic flow of your sales call after your discovery is as follows:

1.     Show the vision of the possible

2.     Show why this vision is impossible today

3.     Get your client to articulate their current pain

4.     Flesh it out, go deeper, make it personal

5.     Stay there as long as feasible, don’t piss off your client!

6.     Demonstrate your unique ability to rescue them from the pain

7.     Get confirmation from the client your solution solves their pain

8.     Go in for the close while they are basking in the relief of no longer being in pain


The bigger pendulum of high highs and low lows you take your client on, the better chance you have of getting the deal. Don’t be afraid to try, remember hedonism is human nature!  Good Selling!