Are You a Pain Hunter?

Are You A Pain Hunter?

By David C. Miller

Let's put this into context. You finally have a meeting with the qualified prospect you've been targeting for months. You want to impress and set yourself apart. So what do you do? Make a killer presentation about your product or service? That's what most of us do.

But let's look at why this approach is ineffective. To do this we need to examine two principles of human psychology:

Principle #1: People take action based on their need to avoid pain or gain pleasure.

As human beings, we're extremely fond of the status quo. Like all living organisms, we look for a place of least resistance or an equilibrium state (forgive the science lesson, but it DOES apply here!).

For people to change paths (i.e., make a buying decision), they need to be disturbed in some way. What drives us is either getting out of pain or achieving the desires of our heart.

Principle #2: People will usually do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure.

Although it's more inspirational to focus on helping your prospect achieve their dreams, it's a fact that, for most people, pain is a more powerful motivator than pleasure.

Achieving pleasure is optional, avoiding pain is non–negotiable.

Examples? Ninety percent of smokers stopped smoking only after a serious heart attack or cancer diagnosis. Very few of these people stopped for the promise of better health.

Let's look at life insurance. I can't think of anything pleasurable about buying a life insurance policy (sorry, life insurance professionals out there—maybe you're the kind who has a dynamic personality that makes this a fun experience). But most people have life insurance because the pain of leaving their families in financial straits in the case of premature death is greater than the pain of paying the premiums.

So What Does This Mean for You?

If you want to have a prayer of making the sale to your prospect, the first step is to find the pain. You've got to be a pain hunter.

Remember, making a buying decision is painful because it involves spending money. You have to help the client see that the pain of not having your product or service is greater than the pain of parting with his or her hard–earned dollars. Only then do you have any chance of making the sale.

This applies whether you're selling a product, service or idea. You may be in an organization and need to persuade senior management to pursue a certain course of action. To do this you must help them see the pain of not following that path.

How Do You Find The Pain?

The best way is to simply ask. Questions are one of the most powerful tools in sales. You need to see yourself as a "pain detective" trying to solve a mystery.

Let's assume you're speaking to a prospect that has some interest in software that you sell. Do you want to make a presentation and demo your software? NO! Not yet.

Instead ask questions like these to find the pain:

  • "What specific problems will be addressed by implementing this system in your organization?" (Note: You might know this answer, but it doesn't matter, your prospect needs to say it. Remember, it's not a problem until they say it's a problem.)
  • How does this problem show up? What symptoms or evidence exists?
  • How is this situation impacting the bottom line?
  • What's this problem costing you? What are you missing out on?
  • How long has this been going on?
  • If this continues for the next three to five years, what will be the impact on the organization?
  • How does this affect you personally?

These aren't the only questions you can ask, but they make up the core of questions I ask to get to my prospect's pain. If you ask these questions, you're prospect will begin talking (and talking a lot), because people love to talk about their problems. This will build a strong rapport with your prospect.

Once you uncover the pain, you've laid the groundwork to present your solution. The prospect is now very motivated to solve their problem.

So make sure you resist presenting your solution until after you've adequately uncovered the pain. Don't rush the process—these hunting trips can involve multiple conversations, but it's worth the wait!

One Last Question: What if you ask these questions and you can't find the pain?

If there's no pain, then you don't have a qualified prospect. If that's the case, then celebrate—you've just eliminated a non–prospect. A key to successful selling is eliminating non–prospects. But that is a topic for a future article.

Sell strong!

David C. Miller, MS, PCC, is a professional business coach who works with actuaries, consultants and executives who desire to attract more clients and be more influential in their organizations. He conducts seminars and one–on–one coaching in business development, consultative selling, influence, leadership, team building and communication effectiveness. He can be reached at or 215.968.2483.