How to get more sales by using this “four-letter word”


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Sales people are masters of the language of selling. The best sales people know how to build relationships by phone and email, ask good questions to earn the customer’s trust, explain product features and benefits in a compelling way, and otherwise talk with customers in a way that wins confidence and closes the deal. However, there’s one bit of sales language that tends to go underutilized – a certain “four-letter word” that sales people need to use more often.

Get your mind out of the gutter – the four-letter word I’m referring to is “Pain.”

Every sales conversation is, at heart, about the customer’s pain. Customers wouldn’t have contacted you or researched your company in the first place unless they had a problem – a source of pain – that was so irritating and distracting that they decided to spend time and money on getting it fixed. After all, when everything’s going great, customers don’t have any need for new B2B solutions. It’s when things go wrong with a current vendor, or a system starts to have issues, or an existing business process isn’t being productive enough anymore, that B2B buyers decide to pick up the phone or start researching for new options.

Here are a few ways that you can use a four-letter word (“pain”) to get better results from your sales conversations:

Ask Questions to Probe for Pain

Every sales call is a chance to build trust with the customer. But instead of jumping to conclusions and assuming that the customer is ready to buy, or instead of making the conversation all about your solutions and what you want to sell to the customer, take a step back and just have an open, patient, empathetic conversation that gets to the root of the customer’s pain.

For example, you could ask:

What sorts of business issues are you having with your current solution?
What made you want to call me? What business problems could we potentially help you with?
What’s the biggest point of pain in your current business process, and how do you see our solution fitting into that?

All of these questions are open-ended – they’re encouraging the customer to tell you more about the overall situation. These questions also help build trust, because you show the customer that you really care about learning more about the pain that’s affecting their business. Also, these questions help build a relationship because it’s almost sort of “therapeutic” – people like to hear themselves talk, and they like to feel like they’re getting help with their problems. If you can open your sales conversation by getting the customer to talk – and helping the customer imagine what a better solution might look like for their pain issues – you are halfway to making a sale.

Be a Problem-Solver

Another reason to focus on “pain” is that it helps you come across not as just another “sales person,” but as a problem solver and peer. You can commiserate about the problem and show the customer that you’re really on the same side – you’re not their adversary who’s trying to negotiate a better deal; you’re a teammate who’s trying to help them resolve a painful problem at the business. This is why it’s so important to demonstrate your industry expertise and talk about similar situations that you’ve seen in the past. Show the customer that you really “feel their pain” and that you have a smart perspective on how to fix it.

Don’t Talk About Budget, Talk About ROI

Finally, if you want to focus on “pain” and resolving pain, don’t bring up the topic of “how much budget are you prepared to spend?” Instead, talk about ROI – the return on investment that the customer can expect to see from implementing your solution. After all, customers only buy new solutions because they expect it will be worth more than it costs. They’re not as concerned about price as you might think – instead, they want to see clear evidence that the solution is a good investment in terms of cost savings or productivity gains. Talking about budget will just remind them of more pain – the pain of spending money. Instead, talk about the soothing reassurance of positive ROI.

“Pain” is the only “four-letter word” that is safe to use in a sales conversation. Show your prospective customers that you care about their pain, and that you’re prepared to offer effective solutions that deliver a strong ROI. Just like consumers, B2B buyers are people too – they want to feel better about themselves and about their problems, and creating an emotional connection is one of the best ways to make bigger sales.

Al Davidson
Al Davidson is the founder of Strategic Sales & Marketing, a "leading light" among lead generation companies, delivering B2B lead generation and b2b appointment setting services for clients ranging from local small businesses to the Fortune 100. Since 1989, the company's sales agents have generated over 7 million sales leads, and created millions of dollars for clients.


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