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Selling to pleasure vs pain
By John Barrows | July 25, 2011

We’re all taught to dig for, find and sell to pain.  There’s nothing wrong with this approach other than the fact that sometimes we don’t pick our head up and realize sometimes (a lot of times) people buy for pleasure reasons as well. The main reason most of us are stuck in the world of selling to pain is because unfortunately most of us get stuck selling to people below the “power line,” or to non-decision makers.  These people are focused on today or yesterday which leads to them being relatively short sighted and focused on resolving the issues affecting them in the short term.  On the contrary, decision makers or people above the power line are more focused on the future.  If you’re talking to a CEO or C level executive that doesn’t have a vision for where they are trying to go in the next 5 years I would be very concerned about their business. Fortunately most of them do have a vision of where they need to go which is usually marked with success and optimism. The beautiful thing about finding and tapping into this vision is if you can show them how your solution will help them get there then the discussions about price, competition and other core sales challenges become a lot less significant.

The best way to uncover the ‘pleasure’ side of any sale is how and what questions you ask to the people in power.  Obviously one of the biggest challenges is getting an audience with these people in the first place.  However, once you do, make sure you don’t dive into your typical “doctor check-up” questions like: What do you do for this? How many of that do you have? How happy are you with your current solution? What could be better?  These are all necessary questions to ask at a certain stage of the sales process, but not to start with.  Start the conversation about something that puts them in the position to be the expert and gets them talking – THEMSELVES.  People love talking about themselves and if you can do your research and come up with some good questions about their business, their industry and their role you’d be amazed at what people will tell you. Make sure you never say something like “So tell me about your business.”  That’s insulting based on how much information is out there about companies these days.  Ask open ended questions about something you read on their web site or annual report that has something to do with how your solution can help them.  Also, a good way to think about pleasure versus pain questioning is to talk about “opportunities” (pleasure) versus “challenges” (pain).  For the next meeting you have with an executive see if you can come up with one pleasure and one pain question at a level higher than you’re used to and see what happens. Good luck and happy selling.

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