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Driving The Sales Process

by Doug Davidoff | Mar 27, 2006 10:28:30 AM

One of the most painful experiences for salespeople is when they have presented their solution to prospects that clearly need it and clearly understand how they can benefit from it, but for some mysterious reason, they refuse to take action. When I am training salespeople, the most frequent questions they ask always begin with some variation of this scenario.

Why do people buy? In the seminars I have conducted over the years, I’ve heard hundreds of different reasons. Some of the most popular include: they want it, they need it, something solves a problem, they like it, it makes them feel good, and (my personal favorite) keeping up with the Joneses. While all of these things may contribute to purchases, none of them explains why people buy. So why do people buy? In every case, the answer is, “pain.”

When a current or anticipated situation does not meet your current or anticipated needs, the discrepancy between the two creates pain. The greater the discrepancy, the greater the pain level. At Imagine Business Development, we refer to this discrepancy and its consequences as Pain Gaps™. If there is not a Pain Gap, there will be no sale.

The fact is, buying anything requires some sort of change. The change may be as simple as buying a new refrigerator and then having to move food from the old one to the new one. It could be buying a new car and having to deal with the hassles of selling the one you have. While both require change, the new car or the new refrigerator is pretty much the same as the old one. This type of change is called continuous innovation. The seller does not require you to change your behavior.

However, years ago, when someone purchased one of the first automobiles or electric refrigerators, the changes they had to make not only included leaving behind the horse and carriage or throwing out the ice box, they had to change their behavior in a dramatic way. They had to rethink everything about what they needed to take a trip or how long they could store their food. This kind of change is called discontinuous innovation.

Companies with value-added selling propositions tend to offer solutions that require buyers to change their behavior (or the organization’s behavior) in a dramatic way. They are selling discontinuous innovation. While the concept of Pain Gaps applies to both types of change, understanding the nature of how pain is created is particularly important for organizations offering discontinuous innovation. Why? Because the level of pain it generates is much greater.

As I mentioned above, pain occurs when there is a discrepancy between the results you expect and the results you need. Accordingly, there is both negative pain and positive pain. A problem is a negative pain. If your sales department is not closing enough sales, you may have a problem, and that problem is going to cause a certain amount of pain. On the other end of the pain spectrum are opportunities. Opportunities are positive pains. Your sales department may be doing a great job closing sales, but you see an opportunity that would enable it to do even better. Taking advantage of this opportunity causes a certain amount of pain because, once again, there is a discrepancy between the current or anticipated situation and the current or anticipated needs.

Understanding and managing Pain Gaps is fundamental to developing an effective go-to-market strategy. In a future post, I will explain the four Pain Modes and how they impact the sales cycle.