Pains and gains in sales conversations
Geplaatst op 26 maart 2018 door Ronald Swensson

There's a long-held and promoted perception that decision-makers are hyper rational and numbers oriented and that marketers and sales people need to message exclusively to their sense of reason because of it. But what if decision-makers aren't as rational as you think and emotions play a bigger role than you realize? In this context, I briefly describe a fascinating theory: the Prospect theory. This theory is a behavioral economic theory that describes the way people choose between probabilistic alternatives that involve risk. The theory says that people are 2 to 3 times more likely to make a decision or seek a risk to avoid a loss. But does this theory also applies to decision-makers? Of all the factors we studied in our Sales Skills Monitor, we saw that winners deepen the relation on a emotional level and talk more about the pains and gains then second-place finishers. Talking more on a emotional level - including talking about the pains and gains - was not a coincidence we presumed. Recently Corporate Visions conducted an experiment that stated our presumption. The study which tested 113 executives across a variety of decision-making scenarios, found that when you frame a status quo situation in terms of loss instead of gain, 70 percent of the decision-makers were willing to make the riskier choice. So as it turns out, decision-makers are just as much influenced by emotions as everyone else and the Prospect theory also applies to the hyper rational and numbers oriented decision maker! 

If you are aware of the direction the decision-maker is thinking about - away from pain or towards gain - it opens up opportunities for you to present solutions that match his or her way of thinking. This will help the decision-maker to realise the benefits of change and possibly increase the urgency of that change. To increase awareness of the urgency to make a decision, we can use 'pain questions' that increase the pain points and stress the impacts of those pains. This makes the decision-maker think seriously about the solution, while reducing the impact of the money he or she would spend or the risks he or she would take. Some examples of 'pain questions': How long has this been going on?; How much time have you already spent on this?; What has it cost you in lost production?; How have these issues impacted on your business so far?; What other impacts is this problem having on you?; How much longer are you willing to let this happen?; What impact has it had on you personally?; How has it affected customer satisfaction?; What would be the consequences if you did nothing about the situation?; What would happen if you waited to solve this? 

Of cause you can also use questions to heighten the value of what customers would gain by using your solution: How would the business benefit of solving this?; What results are you expecting from the improvements?; How will the staff feel when this is solved?; What impact do you see this having on your customers? All of these questions is helping the decision-maker to imagine the value that changing the situation may have on his or her future operations. So, think through how you can either increase pain to make the decision-maker aware of the urgency of the change, or increase the impact of gain. 

Tip: Use the Value Proposition Map to create a better fit between what customers want and what your business offers.  

This article is also published on LinkedIn