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(Rebroadcast) - Sales Training, Part 2: Finding the Pain

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
14 min read

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(Rebroadcast) – Sales Training, Part 2: Finding the Pain:

Full Transcript

Hey there listeners, it’s Liston and welcome to Modern Sales. If you’ve ever moved too fast in a sale only to see a blank stare on your client’s face, it’s probably because you skipped over the most important step or at least you could have spent more time on it and that is finding the pain, as in what’s the deep motivation that’ll get your client to change. This is a rebroadcast of episode 79 originally aired back on June 26th of 2019 and it’s the second in the nine part sales training series. Those are episode 78 through 86 if you want to go back and listen to the whole thing.

I have big announcements coming about Modern Sales, how I’m improving it, things you can expect moving forward and how we’ll be delivering more Modern Sales to you in the weeks to come. I’ll fill you in on those details next week, you’re just going to have to wait.

But for now, here’s the rebroadcast of episode 79 in the sales training series, Finding the Pain.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America. The Mayo Clinic recommends that adults get just 30 minutes of exercise per day or about three and a half hours per week to significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. And in fact, some researchers have found exercise programs for heart attack patients, people who’ve already had a heart attack can even reduce their mortality rates by 25% or more with just modest exercise. I think it’s safe to say that exercise can improve your health in just about every possible measure of it. Yet the average American exercise is just 17 minutes per day, half of the minimum recommended amount. The data’s clear and it is totally obvious, bodies have to move to stay healthy.

So why don’t more people start exercising? The answer is simple, they haven’t felt the pain yet. In today’s episode, I’ll break down for you how to find your clients’ pain, to help motivate them to take action and buy from you. Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and sales people looking to have more and better conversations with your perfect clients. You’ll get a healthy scoop of psychology, behavioral economics and sales studies to help you create win-win relationships. On your host Liston Witherill, and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

Hello and welcome once again to Modern Sales, my name is Liston and this is the second Serve Don’t Sell training episode. If you missed the first one, go back and listen to the last episode in your feed. This is training episode number two, it reflects the training that I give to companies to help them more services to big companies. So if you want to go through it sequentially, you can do that, and if you want to follow along, go to the website, and you can get the slide decks from my training absolutely for free right now. That’s S-E-R-V-E-D-O-N-T-S-E-L-L.C-O. Alright, so today we’re talking about finding the pain. So it all starts here with this underlying premise people buy in order to improve their condition.

Now you may be here for sales tips and tricks and I definitely give some of those, but we really need to start with the fundamentals here, which is why people buy and why companies buy. And there can be some differences in nuance between those two. But mainly people buy and companies buy in order to improve their condition. There may be all sorts of other things involved in that condition. May not just be the ROI, it may not just be eliminating whatever you think the pain is today. It could be lots of different things, but it all 100% of the time oils down to this, people buy to improve their condition. So there are two keywords in that phrase, improve and condition. Now, if we want to improve upon something, it must mean we’re slightly dissatisfied with the way it is now, we think that it could be better, which is to say there has to be pain present for someone to entertain making a change, no pain, no change.

Now the reason this is true is because of a little thing called loss aversion. So this is an idea that comes from psychology and behavioral economics and it basically says people will respond more strongly in the face of potential loss than if they were faced with a potential game. Now think of the evolutionary purpose behind this. Losses could affect us much more than gains, it’s a survival technique. So if you spent caveman and cavewoman years and years developing and sharpening your tools that you use for hunting, your baskets that you use for gathering all the other things that you have, you would not very much like to lose those tools, they would be pretty critical to your survival. You would respond very strongly to the idea of losing those. Whereas having a marginal gain, finding a deer that’s slightly bigger than another, finding a bush of berries that you’re not quite sure about should you eat those or not, you’re not going to respond as strongly to that on average.

Now, of course there are differences between people, I’m talking in averages here. And yes, we want to improve, but that all starts with avoiding the pain we’re feeling right now. So from the top, people buy to improve their condition, which means there has to be some pain present for a purchase to happen. And the reason that’s so important is because we don’t want to keep losing. Now individuals and companies may have different goals. They may be experiencing different pains. So keep this in mind, when you sell to big companies, you’re essentially selling on two different levels. You’re selling to your champion or champions, those people who believe deeply in the need to fix the problem, and those people who believe you’re the one to do it and your company is the one to do it. But then you’re also selling to other people who are less visible to you.

Usually there are a handful of other decision makers around five or so who will be influential on what happens. Each of them is going to be experiencing their own pain and it would help you immensely to figure out what it is. So one thing to keep in mind as you start ruminating on the pain that your clients are having is that you’re not just selling to them. And of course you know this already, but you’re selling to other people who are experiencing pain from other angles and maybe completely different types of pain. And one of the key things we want to do when we’re working with our client, especially earlier in the sale, this is where everything typically falls apart. So quick aside here, I get asked the question, how can I close more sales? That’s probably the number one question people ask me. And as I usually do in a slightly frustrating way, I respond with a question, which is, why aren’t your deals closing?

And if you can’t answer that question, I would challenge you and ask you, are you adequately uncovering the pain? Before you move forward in the sale, make your pitch and then start complaining that you’re not closing enough. Usually there’s a problem with your investigative skills in identifying the pain goals and value, PGV, the underpinning of my entire sales methodology. Usually it comes down to poor investigative skills, poor question asking and dare I even say too much focus on you and not your client. So now burning question you must have, what in the heck do you do to find the pain? So I’m going to go over this conceptually but I’m also going to give you some specific ideas for how to find the pain with your client because I know how critical this is and I am one of those people who likes to nerd out on the research.

I also like to make information useful. I know that you’re listening to this to actually apply something that you hear on this podcast. So I’ll definitely get to the part where you can actually apply this. So in terms of finding the pain, this is the very earliest part of your sale and you’re going to continue to revisit this subject throughout the process of your sale until you get to finalizing it. But ultimately the pain is the foundation. And so in general, starting in our first conversation and depending on how big and complicated your sales are, maybe your second, third and even fourth conversations you’d be talking about paying a significant portion of the time. And it all starts with this question. So tell me where you are now? The reason I like starting with this question is because it’s completely open ended and it allows our prospect to talk to us about whatever is on their mind.

I’m a big fan of open ended questions, so I’m going to start really broad and then I’m going to continue to narrow based on what they say. And when we asked this question, essentially what we want to know is how do they perceive the pain now and how much is there. This is a big, big part of the problem that we want to uncover, is not just where is the pain, but how much pain is it really. Another way to think about that is how bad is the pain? So if you start with a question like tell me what’s going on now, and your prospect is talking and talking and talking, you’re going to want to pick up on little moments of pain. And I call these SOIs, service opportunity indicators. So when someone says something like, “The frustrating part about that,” or if they say something like, “What I would really like to happen is,” those are indicators that we can help our client service opportunity indicators, SOI.

So you’re going to be listening for those phrases when your client is basically telling you, come help me throw me a lifeline, I need some help with this. So what is the pain? And when they say something like, “I’m so frustrated with this,” or “The frustrating thing is,” I listen to what they say and then I’d respond with a followup question and I just repeat essentially what they said. Wow, that does sound really frustrating, can you say more about that? What I’m trying to do is uncover just how deep the pain is and how much pain is there. These followup questions will allow our clients to say a little bit more, and you may be listening to this podcast thinking, God, that seems so unnatural or that would just be so annoying if someone was asking you those questions. But I promise you it’s not, it’s a normal course of conversation.

It’s not a big deal at all. And I also promise you when you do it, most people will be thinking of you as someone who actually cares and pays attention. And that turns out to be a very crucial bit of trust-building. Now, once you’ve started to uncover aspects of the pain and keep in mind that you can revisit any of these questions at any time, because as you learn more and more, you’re going to want to obviously ask more followup questions and learn a little bit more. But if you ask, “Wow, that sounds really frustrating, tell me more about that,” if you asked that question, whatever they say, a natural followup to that could be, “And tell me what have you done to fix it?” So what I’m looking for here is what attempts the client has made in order to rectify the situation.

And that would give me some indication as to what level of priority the pain occupies in their mind. And if the answer is “We’ve done absolutely nothing and we’re just in an exploratory phase,” well the pain may not be that great right now. There are ways to help intensify the pain without being manipulative of course, but by demonstrating to them or sharing your experience about how bad things could really be if they don’t do something about it, but ultimately it is up to our client whether or not they want to take action. Our job is to give them all of the information they need to make an informed decision. Surely you can do that, but obviously one of the things you need to do is understand them, really connect with them, really understand the people who have been in their situation before and help them learn from that.

As a service provider, you’ve probably encountered your client’s problems a multitude of times. Help them understand the ramifications of their problems. So if they haven’t done anything to fix their problem, there’s probably going to be more education that you need to give them. If they have done something, I want to know what it is, did they try to fix it internally? Did they hire someone like you? Did they approach some other solution? Also how long has it been? Did they try something 10 years ago? Because that’s almost like starting from square one or did they just fire their last service provider or consultant? Well, all of those things would give us an indication of what level of priority the pain takes right now and how willing they are to take action. The next question I would want to ask is, who else is this affecting?

Is there someone else on your team who’s being bothered by this? Is one of your bosses or superiors affected by this? Is fixing this part of a company wide initiative? These kinds of questions once again, tell us something about the priority in how deep the pain is. And now I feel like I need a drum roll but I don’t have one so I’ll spare you. But the last question that I really love to ask is, why is now the right time to fix this? And if someone can’t answer that question, it’s going to be an uphill battle on the sale. So typical responses you’ll hear about that is, it’s on the agenda for our quarterly plan, this came up in our annual review, we’ve been talking about this for a long time and we finally have the budget for it. Especially things that are tied towards budget, those are great because that’s a stronger and stronger indication that something will actually happen, but if your client isn’t able to answer this question, why is now the right time to fix it?

Especially if they say something like, “Oh, that’s a great question, I don’t know.” Well, that’s going to be a difficult one, isn’t it? If you do come up empty on an answer on this one, I would just return by saying, “Well, why did you want to talk to me right now,” and see if they’re able to articulate it by reformulating the question. And now I’ll give you a bonus question. One of the hardest things to do in services is to differentiate yourself and your company, and each company has to do this to some degree. I’d say most service providers typically differentiate on some combination of IP and we have the best people. And then of course there’s the cheap, fast and good matrix where you can choose two but not three. But one thing you can do to differentiate yourself on the individual level when you’re talking to a client is just to ask them, “I’m curious, why did you think that me and my company are especially suited to help you, why me?”

The reason I love this question is because your client will tell you usually, in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had this question go unanswered. Now that I’m thinking about it, everybody answers this question, why me and their answer will give you a significant amount of useful information about how to sell to them and in particular how to emphasize why you’re different from the other options available to them including status quo or do nothing. So those are the questions that I recommend you use to help find the pain. Tell me what’s going on right now. What else is that affecting? What have you done to fix it? How long has this been going on? Why is now the right time and why me? Now whenever you hear one of those SOIs, those service opportunity indicators, you’re going to follow that line of questioning, which is simply to say you’re going to ask some followup questions and in order to do that well, you will need to practice something called active listening.

Now active listening is simply a way of structuring your listening so you’re actually paying attention. Novel idea where you’re trying to find the pain and you spend way too much time talking instead of listening. So you are going to have to listen and the best way to do this is called active listening. Now active listening essentially comes down to mirroring and repeating what you hear. Now what that means in practice is when your client is talking, you are listening to a degree which would allow you to repeat what they’re saying without taking any notes. Now it’s important to get the big picture here and some of the most pertinent details. You being a language processing machine, dear human being, you’re totally capable of doing this, but it may take some practice. Now, what I recommend you do is while your client is talking, you’re going to take mental notes and you can even take handwritten notes or if you type fast enough like I do, actually type up notes while your client is talking and that will help you pay attention and actively listen.

Now some people say don’t take notes, you’ll never be able to understand what your client actually means. That’s not true for me, that may be true for other people. I think taking notes is super helpful, but the bottom line is whatever it’s going to take for you to be able to repeat the major bits of what your client says to you, do that. So the process goes like this, your client is talking, you’re mentally taking notes. When they stop, you can ask a followup question or you’re going to repeat, when you repeat what they said, I would always start with a phrase like this, “I’m just going to repeat what you said to make sure I understand you, is that all right?? Of course, they’ll say yes and you’ll repeat what you understood. And then after I repeat it, I would say, “Did I get that right? ”

The key reason I want to have confirmation at the end is because communication happens two ways. There’s someone transmitting a message and there’s someone receiving a message and we want to make sure that the same message that your client intended to transmit to you was received by you. And that’s why we actively listen and we seek confirmation. Now whether or not you’re able to take notes during the call, I highly recommend you take some notes at some point. You are not going to remember everything my friend, the human brain does this weird thing, it tricks you into thinking it remembers everything, but then of course it doesn’t. So during the call, after the call, during and after the call, whatever you think is best take notes. And one thing that I like to do is send my clients and prospects a synopsis of what happened on the call so that I can make sure that I got it all right.

So in review, when it comes to finding the pain, it all starts with this, people buy to improve their condition. That’s why we need to find the pain and that means they need to be experiencing some level of pain before they’re strongly interested in making a purchase. Pinpointing the pain is crucial and you’ll have to do it on the individual decision maker and company levels. I’ll get to account planning in a later episode, I promise. And finally asking questions, followup questions, and actively listening will help you get to the real pain. Now this all lends itself to the next part of the sale, Defining Goals and Value. What the heck is in it for them to solve this pain anyway? I will be covering that in the next episode, so be sure you’re subscribed. Be sure you’re right back here next week in order to hear that episode.

I’m really looking forward to laying out all of my training methodology right here on the podcast and again, if you want my training decks go to On the homepage, there’s a big orange button you can click in order to get all of my training decks, they’re absolutely free and it’ll also sign you up for the newsletter. If you don’t want the training decks, just sign up for the newsletter. I’d love to have you there where I’m sending out a weekly article as well as this weekly podcast episode. As usual, I am so grateful that you are here listening to this. I know you could spend your time a thousand five million other ways and I’m really glad that you’re here listening to this. If you know anybody else who would benefit from hearing this episode or any other episode of Modern Sales, please do take the time to share it with them and if you are so inclined, leave a review in iTunes, it does help other people find the show. Once again, my name is Liston Witherill, you are listening to the Modern Sales podcast, and I hope you have a fantastic day.

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