Tim Huffaker 2017

The biggest mistake salespeople make, is to proudly and enthusiastically tell prospects all they know about their products and services before discovering their pain.  Once they have regurgitated all their knowledge, they convincingly tell the prospect why they need the product, and conclude by reciting the benefits they will enjoy. 

During the highly charged presentation, the salesperson does most of the talking, while cutting the prospect short, as they maneuver to get a word in edge-wise.  Selling is all about pain, not inflicting it, but in discovering it.

In the greatest investigative journalism event in the past fifty years, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post, cracked the case of the Democratic Party Headquarters break-in at the Watergate Hotel.  That event brought down the Nixon Presidency in August 1974.  Throughout their investigation, their efforts were steered by the anonymous source known only as “Deep Throat”.  Now here is the point of this anecdote.  Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein to “follow the money” and they would find out who was responsible for the break-in.  The rest of the story is history as the money trail led right to President Richard M. Nixon.  In the case of a salesperson making a sale, the operable phrase is, “find the pain.”  When you discover the pain of the prospect, you are on the trail to closing the sale.

After dabbling in the childhood business ventures of lemonade stands and cookie sales, I took my selling career to the big leagues.  When I was eight, I sold freshly laid eggs door to door in my neighborhood.  From experience in my own home, I realized the pain associated with eggs not making it from the store to home without breaking.  My mother would occasionally complain about eggs that were not fresh, and frequently made a fuss about running out of eggs.  I realized that if my own mother suffered “egg pain”, that other mothers in the neighborhood probably experienced the same trauma.  Through discovering pain, my business plan was hatched and the rest is history.  That was a period of time when I enjoyed the greatest spendable income of my young life.

Later in my business career when I was twelve, I launched another profitable business by observing the pain of construction workers, building a state office building near my home.  These workers, hot and sweaty, were always looking for cold refreshment as they took their thirty-minute lunch break.  To quench their thirst and remedy their pain, I went into the business of manufacturing and selling homemade root beer, to the sun-parched construction workers.  Every day at noon, I would show up with my wagon filled with ice-cold, home brewed, root beer.  It was all I could do to keep up with demand.  One of the workers asked me if I could age some of the bottles a few days longer to give the root beer a little extra kick.  I did, and quickly discovered that demand was a great vehicle for increasing prices.

These experiences, early in my sales career, taught me the most valuable lesson of selling:  “First find the pain, and then present your product or service as a specific solution to eliminating the pain.”  As great as your products might be, and as big as your ego is, prospects and customers care about only one thing – solving their needs or curing their pain.  

Do yourself a favor, seek to discover the pain first, and then close the sale with your product as the solution.  It will make selling much easier and far more successful.