5-Step Pain Filter: Close Contracts During Discovery

Nov 19, 2018 | 0 comments

Why do people make the purchases and partnerships they do? Is it simply because they need what you have to offer, and you can offer it better than anyone else? Not exactly.

The truth is, your prospects have underlying issues that impact their willingness to partner with your agency for the services you offer. According to the Sandler sales training methodology, “People buy for their own emotional reasons and justify with logical reasons.”

Clearly, you need to know what those emotional reasons might be if you want to close contracts. That’s where the Pain Filter comes in—because although pleasure, recognition, and convenience are all emotionally based reasons we make purchases, “Pain in the present is the most motivating buying emotion.” Figure out what’s causing the pain, discomfort, or inconvenience and outline how to relieve it, and you’ve found yourself a client—assuming the client is the right fit for your agency.

The Pain Filter is a five-step discovery process that helps you uncover a prospect’s real reasons for hiring you. It teaches you to flex your “empathy muscle” to connect with each prospect as an individual person with unique wants, needs, and concerns. Overcoming sales objections is important, but that’s so much easier to do when you understand what’s truly motivating your prospect.

Here are the five steps:

1. Surface Challenges

These are what the prospect says (and may even truly believe) are the primary issues at hand. Your job here is to dig deeper: ask questions to help the prospect feel comfortable about opening up to reveal their true motivations. Build a relationship by listening intently to their origin story, what’s changed over time in the business, and how deeply current challenges are affecting all aspects of the person’s life. Sandler talks about seeing through the illusions presented by the prospect. They may say one thing, but what do they really mean? If you accept statements at face value without probing deeper, you may miss an opportunity to find out what’s really going on from an emotional perspective.

2. What Are the Business Reasons?

With no other considerations, this is how the issue at hand (or the perceived issue at hand) will impact your prospect’s business. You need to understand how the decision-maker is weighing the competitive landscape, financial or operational implications. The business reasons may become part of the logical justification a prospect offers for a decision, and those practical elements—like budget—can play a role in that final decision.

3. What’s the Personal Impact?

This is your chance to really make a connection with your fellow human. How does the pain point affect the prospect on a personal level? It may be an individual issue, or it may have an impact on their family, their hobbies or personal time, their status or reputation within the company, or something else in their life. Ask questions and listen to the answers with empathy to discover the emotions that may go far beyond what the company needs or wants. Personal impact is the underlying driver of nearly all decisions.

4. Are They Ready for Change?

It’s one thing to recognize the need for change; it’s another thing to take action. Is your prospect willing, ready, and able to take the required steps and make the changes the company needs? If not, what’s holding them back? Is the person you’re dealing with really the one who can make that choice? With a soft approach, ask questions about time frame, commitment, and willingness to invest in solving the challenge.

5. The Sale

To close contracts, it’s essential to reinforce their pain and your team’s ability to solve the problem—and to ask for the opportunity to do so. The prospect needs to know your next step is to put together a proposal for how you intend to tackle the challenge together. Then, walk them through it in person or via screen share. Never send a proposal and wait for questions or a follow-up call—you’ll be waiting a very long time.

Here’s the thing: prospects will tell you how to close them if you listen to their challenges, determine what’s most critical to them on an emotional level, and instill confidence about your agency’s positioning and your track record of success for clients just like them. Agency positioning impacts pricing, which means pricing doesn’t have to be a major part of the conversation if you know the value of what you have to offer. If you’re concerned about that, let’s talk about how to properly position your agency for growth, as a premium provider in your niche.

Negotiations will gradually become nearly non-existent if you meet needs with empathy from the onset. Cost won’t matter as much if they know they’re working with a person or team who can help them.

After all, selling doesn’t happen at the end of the process. It’s happening all along, and you can unofficially close the contract early on if you can show the prospect that you care, you’re trustworthy, you understand their pain points, and you are more than capable of helping them solve their problems.

It’s never about, “What can you buy from me?” or “How much can I sell you on?”. It’s only about, “How can I help you fix this?” Answer that with kindness and empathy, and you’ll close all the ideal contracts you can handle.

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Kelly L. Campbell

Kelly (they/she) is a Trauma-Informed Conscious Leadership Coach to self-aware visionaries, a keynote speaker and a sponsored podcast host. They are the founder of Consciousness Leaders, the world’s most diverse speaker’s agency. Her debut book on trauma and leadership, entitled Heal to Lead, will be available Spring 2024 (Wiley). Sign up for pre-launch notifications here.


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