Sales organizations across the world spend a lot of time implementing strategies and tactics to sell against another solution or competitor. They stack the value proposition of their product/service as a comparison to some other companies value proposition. I am always a fan of selling against alternative choices, but the alternative choice that derails most sales proposals is not usually another course of action. It is a course of inaction. Prospects will usually hesitate and ponder without end, firmly planted in their current course.

Good salespeople find a problem and sell their solution into it, disqualifying prospects that do not have the problem/pain along the way. 

What great salespeople realize is that often the issue is not a lack of pain, as much as a lack of awareness of that pain. You are not fighting another decision, you are fighting NO decision. There is a reason or reasons why your prospects are in their current status quo. They have chosen this status because it is comfortable based on their current awareness of their situation. Based on what they perceive, the current situation is the best course of action (and/or inaction). The basic fact is that they are not going to buy until their status quo becomes unacceptable to them. If you are facing a constant barrage of “thinking about its” and “Under consideration” or “considering my options”, then you are dealing with a prospect that is not aware of any valid reasons to change their status quo.

Awareness, however, is often not aligned with reality. There might be real pain there, that they are simply not aware of, either because it has not rolled up to them yet (it is an issue on the shop floor, but not in the CEO’s office) or because it hasn’t cost them enough yet. Ever have a client “mull” over your proposal for months, only to make a quick buying decision with a competing company’s proposal? That’s an example of just not being there when they realized they had pain. The competitor likely managed to make them aware of it, and you didn’t.

All sales cliches aside, the primary motivator of a buyer is solving pain. That motivation doesn’t activate until they become aware of said pain. We’ve all experienced this in our personal lives. An example might be doing yard work for several hours on a Saturday morning. You go in for lunch and realize you have a scratch or cut on your leg. It has been there for over an hour, but until you became aware of it, it didn’t bother you. Now that you see blood on your leg, it hurts.

The human brain is bombarded with hundreds of millions of bits of information a day, from all five senses. Taking it all in would be overload, and would crash the computer, so our brains practice what is called deletion. A human brain triages information and deletes up to 80-90% of what it hears, sees, smells, tastes and touches every minute of the day (which is also why you can’t find your keys until you brain does a mini reboot and you realize they were in your left hand the whole time you were looking for them). A focus reboot often makes us aware of things that were just in the periphery before.

What does that all mean on a sales call? It means you need to be asking questions that challenge your prospect’s awareness, to determine which bucket they live in.

Bucket 1. Have no pain

Bucket 2. Have pain that they are unaware of 

If it’s bucket 3 (They have pain and they know it), you won’t have to do much, because they will likely be asking a lot of buying questions.

A large block of prospects are in bucket 2, and winning their business is what differentiates the best salespeople from the pack. Anyone can get the bucket 3 clients, and no one can get the bucket 1 clients. Getting the bucket 2 people out of camping mode is where you make your mark.

 Focus your discovery questions on either finding pain, or challenging your prospect to become aware of the pain. If they stay trapped in their status quo, you stay trapped in “maybe land”. They need to see that NOT making a decision is actually a decision to accept the conditions of the status quo, and the pain associated with it.