I also like Sharon’s more recent book, Dirty Little Secrets, which posits that so many selling efforts fail because sellers aren’t attuned to the buying process – or, really, the change process, in their prospects’ organizations.
So liking Sharon Drew as I do, I was surprised to see her blog post “Your Prospects Aren’t in Pain” on Friday. Showing an aging guy holding a bad back, Sharon Drew writes, “If your buyer had pain, they would have fixed the problem already.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
People have all sorts of pain. You do, I do, everyone does.
When I teach “look for the pain when you’re selling”, I define “pain”, in that context, as:
· Things that are going wrong for your prospect right now
· Things that have gone wrong for your prospect in the past
· Things that your prospect is afraid are going to go wrong in the future, or
· Things that your prospect has heard have gone wrong for other people in situations similar to his
…and I teach, further, that pain can be broken into two types: irritant pain and actionable pain. Most pain is an irritant – it bothers you, but not enough for you to spend money or time or effort trying to fix it. Actionable pain is pain that’s bad enough to spend money/time/effort trying to correct.
But even if your prospect has actionable pain, the specific pain he has may not be at the top of his “pain list”! Even actionable pain may not be your prospect’s top priority.
Sharon Drew makes the point that “In order for buyers to buy, they need to manage systemic change”, and that’s true for big-scale pain; she’s also right when she points out that corporate “buyers live in systems of people and policies”, and that, when there are problems, the system often creates a workaround the problem, so it can continue functioning. Such problems’ workarounds may just become “the way we do things around here”, and not be seen as a problem/pain much at that point.
But to go from that to Sharon Drew’s title “Your Prospects Aren’t in Pain” is just ridiculous. Psychology tells us that the most powerful drivers of human behavior are the desire to avoid pain and the desire to gain pleasure (see http://psychcentral.com/news/2009/12/28/avoiding-pain-and-embracing-pleasure/10424.html, for example) – and of the two, the more powerful is the desire to avoid pain. Human beings will do almost anything to avoid pain – and most of us are loaded with it.
So when we’re selling, we do look for our prospects’ pain, and seek to show how we may be able to help them lessen or remove it. Interestingly, we human beings often bury our pain – it’s not front-of-mind, day to day, that we have all the problems we have; it’s a survival mechanism to “back burner pain” mentally. So in contemporary selling, we often work to bring our prospects’ legitimate pain (as defined above) into the FRONT of their minds, so they can be big boys and girls and decide whether they would like to take action to reduce or remove it.