Categorized | Down to Business, Marketing

A sales strategy for today: No pain, no gain

Traditional selling techniques won’t cut it in today’s marketplace, says Dan Philpot, a professional speaker and partner in Sandler Sales Training. Instead, making sales necessitates using a selling system based on gettingdan philpot small the customer to feel “pain.”

“Customers will not buy when you want them to buy; they will buy only when they are ready,” he told participants in a recent Knowledge Is Power Workshop, sponsored by Advantage: The Resource for Small Business. The key, then, is to make them ready “sooner” rather than “later.”

Unfortunately, traditional selling techniques that focus on presenting features and benefits no longer are effective, he stressed. Sales reps who use those techniques generally go through a process that lightly qualifies a buyer (that is, anyone who is thinking about a buying), presenting features and benefits (data and specifications); making a proposal that includes negotiating price; and then chasing the customer to finalize the deal.

Workshop attendees agreed that one of the most common problems associated with this type of sales approach is that closing the sale—if at all possible—is prolonged for months.

The reason a traditional approach no longer works is partly because of the economy but mostly because prospects have taken over the system to benefit themselves, said Philpot. He said that prospects know what to expect in a traditional sales presentation based on features and benefits and a closing, and therefore they:

• Don’t always tell the truth. Prospects know what happens when you present features and benefits or make a presumptive closing. Instead of being forthcoming, they withhold the truth or deliberately mislead you;

• Want unpaid consulting. Their goal is to get as much information as possible at the best possible price. They know you have solutions, and they pump you for information. Then, they use this information with others to get the best price;

• Do not commit. Despite all the information you provide, the prospect does not commit;

• Hide. When prospects get all they can from you, they disappear, while you continue to try to court them with e-mails and follow-up letters.

A better way

Since traditional selling no longer works with savvy buyers, it’s time to use a better system, encouraged Philpot. This system, based on Sandler training, includes seven steps:

1. Establishing rapport,

2. Creating an up-front contract,

3. Discovering the customer’s ‘pain,’

4. Addressing budget issues,

5. Finding out how decisions are made,

6. Resolving the customer’s pain, and

7. Reinforcing the sale with a post-cell call.

• Establishing rapport. “We tend to feed information to customers,” said Philpot. “That makes us look like an expert. And when you start to go ahead of your customer, you narrow the conversation and give out free information.” He added, “If you act like you are smarter, you make the customer feel not OK, and they talk less about the company and its problems.”

• Creating an up-front contract. This is basically establishing the “rules” or agenda for the conversation, Philpot explained. By setting the parameters, you can then keep the conversation from straying—and the customer knows up-front where you are going.

• Discovering the customer’s ‘pain.’ Customers buy only when the pain is too great not to buy. Another way of putting it, is, “No pain, no gain.” Probe to discover the customer’s pain—Quality? Time? Cost? Once you help the customer articulate the pain, you can provide a solution to get rid of it.

• Addressing budget issues. Talk about the cost of your product or services. But also talk about the cost of not buying them. The customer needs this information to go forward. (Putting cost on the table does not mean you are negotiating price.)

• Finding out how decisions are made. You have to understand who makes the decision and how that decision is made.

• Resolving the ‘pain’ issues. In a traditional presentation, this would involve giving features and benefits. However, in this system, focus on showing how your product or service gets rid of the pain you identified.

• Reinforcing the sale with a ‘post sell’ call. If you have taken a customer away from a competitor, that competitor is still out there trying to get the business back. Develop a strong post-selling step so that you don’t get a “buyer’s remorse” call from your new customer.

“When you use this system,” said Philpot, “you become a systems-solutions partner—not a seller.” By adopting a partnership mentality, you then embrace your customer’s concerns as your own. “That’s what will make them buy,” he said.

Dan Philpot can be reached at or through his website, He spoke at a Knowledge Is Power Workshop, presented by Advantage: The Resource for Small Business and US VenturePlex.

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