I was chatting last night to a smart marketer who was asking me about an effective sales process for high value services.
He was experienced, and he'd done his homework and studied and tested some of the classic approaches. The steps he outlined to me that he was following were rock solid.
Where he was struggling was “finding the pain”.
You know: the step in every sales process where you drill in to the problems the client has and ask about the impact. And ask some more. And some more.
“Twist the knife”, so to speak, so that the client is fully aware of the situation they're in, how much it's costing them, the impact on their business or life.
He just didn't feel comfortable with that part.
And I don't blame him.
Almost all sales techniques focus on finding the pain. For good reason too. Without a big motivation to change, clients just won't buy.
You can find the pain ethically. Help the client see the reality of their situation for their own good.
Or you can do it unethically. Exaggerate all the negatives to scare them so you make the sale. I've even seen some sales training teach people to ask about the impact of the business issue on the potential client's personal life, their husband or wife, their kids. Yuck.
Here's the thing.
Finding the pain works. But it has a downside.
If you're constantly looking for pain, that means your focus is on clients with problems.
Remedial work. Fixing issues.
And typically that means you'll end up working on the same basic stuff again and again.
Like a plumber fixing leaks or a mechanic changing tyres or replacing alternators.
Not necessarily the most rewarding work. Or the highest paid.
If you're an engineer at the top of your game you probably want to be designing cars, not just fixing them.
If you're an expert business coach you probably want to work with clients who are doing well and are keen to grow, rather than those who are struggling to survive.
There's less desperation. but there's more upside. More joy and more enjoyment. Higher fees (and they're much better placed to pay you too).
If you look at a lot of marketing you can see that it's geared at the desperate. It agitates the pain and makes exaggerated claims. Who else but a desperate person would believe you can make thousands of dollars a day with just a few hours work. Or get 306 clients from a teleseminar?
So I believe my friend was right to feel uncomfortable finding the pain.
Yes, you and your client need to understand the gap between where they are today and where they need to be.
But isn't it so much better if that gap is about upside and growth?
And won't working on those growth challenges build your capabilities much more than just fixing the same old problems?
Isn't there much less competition at the top? Aren't car designers better paid than garage mechanics?
Next time you revisit your marketing strategy, take a look at who you see as your ideal client. Who you target with direct mail or who you focus your website content on.
(In fact, as I write this my stomach has just turned as I realise the pay-per-click campaign I've been testing is focused on pain rather than gain. Time to fix that).
Look at your marketing. What sort of client would be attracted by your headlines, your tweets, your sales letters?
A struggling client, or a growing client?
Who do you really want to work with?