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The Sales Process You Need to Win Big Clients

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
13 min read

In this episode, I’ll walk you through the process that I use and I recommend.

1. Finding the Pain (Pain Points)
2. Setting Goals
3. See and Realize the Value of Goals
4. Proposal and Offer

To provide true value to your customers, start by asking the right questions. Identifying customer pain points allows you to think about how to position your company or product as a solution to your prospects’ problems.

You never want to exaggerate the benefits of your product or service, but you don’t want to give away all of the secrets in the first go. Make sure you boil down what is the pain points of your client then set SMART goals.

Value is where all things come together. People buy to improve their condition but they have to see and realize the value in it.

Creating and mapping your sales process will help you close more deals and convert more leads. This will also ensure your team provides every prospect with the same type of consistent experience, representative of your brand.

Mentioned in this episode:

SMART criteria

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.

The Sales Process You Need to Win Big Clients:

Full Transcript

In January of 1986, the space shuttle Challenger was set to take off for its 10th flight, loaded up with seven crew members. Even though Challenger had already flown nine times, this time was different.

High school teacher Christa McAuliffe was aboard, who would be the first school teacher in space. The American public was really excited about this. 17% of the American public was watching on live TV as the shuttle prepared for takeoff from its platform in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

”C minus ten, nine, eight, seven, six. We have main engine start. Four, three, two, one, and lift off. Lift off of the 25th space shuttle mission and it has cleared the tower.”

It took off normally. Everything looked great. There was a huge plume of fire and smoke coming out of the rockets. But at 73 seconds into the flight, Challenger exploded and all of its crew members were lost.

What happened? It turns out the failure was initially caused by faulty O-ring seals that couldn’t withstand the cold on the morning of the launch. That led to a chain reaction of events that caused the Challenger disaster. O-rings. They seem like a small thing and easy enough to get right, but space shuttles are the most complicated machines to build in the entire world. They have millions of parts and whole teams of hundreds of people help to build them and make them a reality. Dedicated teams of QA technicians check to make sure everything is just right. But of course, nothing is guaranteed, especially when human beings are involved.

Now, process may not seem like an exciting topic, but space travel is. Everything from space travel to international diplomacy to parenting and, yes, even sales has a process. The actions we take along the way affect the outcomes. The good news is that selling, even to mid-market and enterprise companies, isn’t nearly as complicated as building a spaceship. In today’s episode of Modern Sales, I’ll walk you through the process that I use and I recommend and I train teams to use.

Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and salespeople 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. I’m your host, Liston Witherill, and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

Sales process may not sound like a sexy topic, but it’s a foundation of how you’ll win clients and build your sales organization. You see, it’s the underpinning that provides the framework, guidance, and actions you need to take to reliably win business. But it’s more than that, too. Having a process will also allow you to have a common language for you and your whole team so everyone knows exactly how to think about seemingly disparate parts of the sale. It will also provide a basis for consistent improvement since it’ll be easier to pinpoint weak points in your process. And having a process allows you to train your team or help your colleagues and enable them to train and help each other.

Today’s episode is the first episode in a series I’m calling #SDStraining, which you can see in the show title, and that’s because it encapsulates the training I do at SDS, AKA serve, don’t sell. If you want to follow along with my training decks, you can grab them for free at right now. That’s

In this episode, I’m going to give you an overview of the process that I recommend and I call PGV, or pain, goals, value. Then I’ll dive into each of those topics separately in the following three podcast episodes. After I do that, I’ll have an episode on proposals and offers, a separate episode on planning for complicated sales to big companies, another one on objections and money, and another on negotiation. Then I’ll cap off all of this SDS training series with an episode on how to drive adoption of all of these concepts. You know, how adults learn new things. It’s possible, but it’s not easy. If you think that you or others will learn simply because you should or because you get paid to do it, you, my friend, are sadly mistaken. I’ll tell you why later. But for today, let’s get into the process.

Here’s what I think about process. It has to be as simple as possible if you want anyone to follow it, and that means no waste, minimal ambiguity, and it should cover most cases, not every single case that could ever happen, but you’ll find it’s at least 80%, usually more like 90% of the cases. This entire process starts with your client. Remember, around here we serve, don’t sell. That means we have to be in service to our client. That means we must start with what they want and what they care about.

We have to start with the question, why do people buy? The answer is this: people buy to improve their condition. This also applies to companies, but it becomes a little bit more complicated because you have a company, an overarching entity, and then you have people within that company who have their own wants and needs. But the two key words are improve and condition. People buy to improve their condition. That means they’re not satisfied with the way things are right now, so they need to make a change. I call that dissatisfaction, pain. It all starts with pain. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “No pain, no gain.” But when you’re selling to big companies, it’s “No pain, no change.”

Step one in the process is finding the pain. Where we have to start on this idea is to ask ourselves, what is the pain and just how deep is it? This isn’t for you to decide. It is something that should be surfaced through conversation. You’ll be asking questions like, what’s going on now? Who has the pain besides you? How bad is it? How long have they noticed it? What, if anything, have they done to fix it? If so, if they have done something, why didn’t it work? If they haven’t done anything, why not? What else is this affecting? Now you may be saying to yourself, “What if my client has no pain?” Well, no pain, no change. There’s a significant resistance to change because change is hard.

I’ll give you an example. I recently took a vacation to Italy. I was gone for 18 days and I unplugged the entire time, which was so good. I recommend that you do that. Unplug at some point and don’t check your email and don’t connect your phone to the network while you’re away. I’d say this spoiled me in a way, which is funny to say because 20 years ago, we didn’t have cellphones; 10 years ago, we didn’t have smart phones. But in any case, I was a little bit spoiled.

When I got back to the Dallas airport, which was my layover coming back from Rome, I turned on my phone. Maybe that was a mistake. Within 10 minutes, I got a spam phone call, which you probably get on a regular basis, too, if any marketer has your phone number. I usually get two to five of these per day. I was so annoyed by this that I said to myself, “You know what? I’m going to change my phone number when I get home. I’ve had the same phone number for 20 years. I don’t live in that area anymore. More than anything, I am really sick of getting these spam calls.”

When I got home, I went to the Verizon website and I filled out a form and got to the final step of changing my phone number. I even chose a new phone number, but I chickened out at the end. The reason I did is because I thought about all of the things that I would need to do after I changed this phone number. I have to update every bank account, every credit card, my mortgage holder, my doctor, my dentist, all of my clients of course, all of you lovely people listening to this, if you have my phone number, all of my friends who’ve had the same phone number for me for the last 20 years.

Here’s the key takeaway. Any change comes with cost. In this case, the pain for me of having a phone number that received spam calls several times a day has not elevated beyond the cost of changing my phone number, all of the work that it will take to change it. So, I didn’t change my phone number.

This is why finding the pain is so important, because the pain has to be greater than the risk and cost of change. If the pain is great enough, people will buy from you. If it’s not, you have absolutely no chance to sell. There are ways we can alter all sides of that equation: the pain, the risk, and the cost of change. We can influence it, but it should go without saying that if your client doesn’t have pain or doesn’t have enough pain, they will not be buying from you.

Now, there are circumstances when your client may not know that she has pain or she may not know how deep it is, and it’s up to you to demonstrate it. But that, my friend, is a much, much more difficult sale and I’ll be talking about that in the next episode.

Once you establish pain, you’re going to move on to step two, which is setting goals. This is the dream state your client has. It’s the opposite of the pain. If people buy to improve their condition, this is the ultimate improvement they want to see. Sometimes your client’s going to know exactly what their goals are. They’ll be able to articulate them to you. They’ll be able to write them down is probably the best test of whether or not they’re clear on their goals. But often, they won’t. Often, they will be describing their goals in very, very vague terms, just like they’re describing their pain in vague terms. But if we go back to step one, if we can help them clearly define and articulate the breadth and depth of their pain, goal setting will become much easier.

Our goal, as the people selling, is to help our clients get really specific on their goals. A great template for this is called SMART goals, which maybe you’ve heard of, but it’s a great way to go through your goal setting exercise with your clients. SMART is an acronym that means specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. You can go ahead and look this up on Wikipedia. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about SMART goals. But the short of it is that you want your clients to get to the point where they can measure the improvement that they want, that their goal is realistic based on your experience, and there’s a time period associated it.

Now, here’s where a lot of people trip up. If you’re in a purely sales role, I may or may not know you, but let’s just say in the abstract, some people will make a sale without realistically setting expectations. They may make a sale without any inkling about how to measure improvement or they won’t give that to their clients. They may make a sale without setting a time period or even a realistic time period. These, my friends, are all mistakes in client services. The reason for that is there’s no better way to piss someone off than to set them up with unrealistic expectations that will inevitably be broken. If you are listening to this, hopefully you’re like-minded enough that I don’t have to say this, but just in case, I think it’s worth saying, don’t do that. That’s step number two, you’re going to set goals.

Step number three is value. This is where it all comes together. If we go back to the premise one more time, people buy to improve their condition. Sure, you might be able to help them solve a problem and achieve some of their goals, but they have to see and realize the value in it. Let me translate that to the core statement here. People buy to improve their condition. They will only improve their condition if the value that they receive from working with you exceeds the cost. Otherwise, they’re worse off than they were before. Sure, they may have solved some problems, but they created bigger ones. They have less money, it requires more maintenance, et cetera, et cetera. The value is really where it all comes to life. Just like with your goals, your clients may have a vague idea of the value they may get, but you have much more experience delivering it than they have in receiving it. Wouldn’t it make sense to help them set value?

I’ll give you an example. In my own training, one thing that I do after every single session is I ask all of the learners to fill out a quiz. The purpose of the quiz is twofold. Number one, I want to reinforce what they learned. It’s not to test their knowledge so much as it is to force them to think about and apply what they just learned. It’s not so that I can get one over on them and show them how smart I am. That has nothing to do with it. The first thing, really, is to reinforce.

But the second thing is to solicit feedback. I ask them how useful the training was and I also give them space to write any feedback they have and ask them if they’d like me to follow up directly with them. I always do that in a one-to-one capacity so they feel open to talk to me and tell me exactly what they’re thinking. Many people are willing to have a meeting and tell me what they think about the training, what they think some of these structural issues are within their company, how they think their team could improve, some things that they’ve been asking for that they haven’t gotten. There’s all kinds of things that come out of these sessions. At the end of those sessions, I ask them, “Hey, is it okay if I bring some of this back to the manager?” Almost always they say yes, and that creates such a huge value-added layer in my training because it allows managers to understand the pulse of their team, it allows managers to understand more insight into what’s going on than they had before.

That is a layer of value that I will talk about when I’m talking to potential clients. It’s not something I talk about too much in my marketing materials, but it is something that I will ask people about when I’m talking to them. Would it be valuable if you were able to uncover insights about your team even beyond sales and the sales process in this training? Usually people say yes, and so I explain how that would work. That’s a layer of value that I can help my clients see, and it builds their overall perception of the value that I can deliver.

Value really comes down to measurement and buy-in, as in it doesn’t matter much if we can observe it to be true. All measurement starts with observation and it doesn’t matter if your client doesn’t think it’s valuable. The only things that are valuable are the things that your client thinks are valuable.

There’s going to be two portions of the setting value part. One portion is we’re going to ask our clients all of the different types of value that they’re seeking. The second portion is we will offer other forms of value we believe that we deliver and see if those matter to the client because there are so many aspects to the value that you bring far beyond dollars and cents. In fact, I would argue measurable bottom line ROI, in most cases, is the minority of the value that you bring. The question is, what are those sources of value that you deliver?

Okay, so we have our pain in step one. Step two, we have our goal setting. Step three, we have our value. Step four, proposal and offer. Once you’ve gone through the PGV process and you still have your client’s attention, then it is time to give them a proposal, something relatively informal, and then an offer, something much more formal that they can sign. Often, this is called a scope of work or a contract.

What goes into those documents should essentially be a recap of PGV. You know their problems, you know the goals they’re trying to reach in solving those problems, and you know the value they’d get by working with you. Now, all you have to do is match your solution to their PGV, and bam. You have a sales story, which is how you’d verbally walk someone through your proposal and you know exactly how to sell to them. Your client taught you how to sell to them, how they want to buy, and what matters to them.

Just to recap, the underpinning of the serve, don’t sell methodology is PGV, and then you’ll make a presentation, whether it’s formally or informally. It really depends on how you do business. In larger sales, you’re going to do both informal and then nail it down to more specifics and more details and go a little bit more formal. I’ll dig deeper into each of these topics over the next four episodes, as well as the rest of my training following that.

If you liked what you heard, I invite you to do two things. Number one, head over to my website, That’s, to view the training program I use when I train client services teams. If you go to the homepage, there’s a big orange button you can click and get the training. Or head over to the very same website to sign up for the newsletter, which I send weekly. Just go to and click newsletter in the navigation to sign up.

Thank you so much for listening. I am very grateful that you are here. As always, share this podcast if you know someone who it would help. Hit that subscribe button. Hit the share button in your app and send it to someone who it might help, if you know anybody. Finally, once again, my name is Liston, and I hope you have a fantastic day. Bye.

Modern Sales Podcast