One step all sellers need to take before discussing pain points with prospects

In this post, as in most of my posts, I’m using the term “sellers” somewhat generically. When I say “seller” I mean anyone who markets or sells — whether you own an online business or an offline one, whether you’re a copywriter or a door-to-door fundraiser.

One of the basics of “selling 101” is the need for sellers to identify and discuss pain points with prospects. It’s in just about every sales book I’ve ever read and every sales training course I’ve ever attended. It’s an essential step in the path to a successful sale because once you’ve uncovered those pain points, you can describe how they can be solved by your product or service.

As important as this “highlight-the-pain” concept is, there is a component missing from the concept and I have only recently read a great explanation about the missing link.

I recently cleaned out my bookshelf (to make room for some great new books!) and dusted off a book called Solution Selling by Michael Bosworth, written in the 1990’s. It’s been years since I skimmed the book (I’m not sure I’ve ever read, to be honest) so I thought I should actually sit down and go through it.

Early in his book, Bosworth discusses pain points and the importance to sellers of highlighting the pain. Classic. But he goes a step further and discusses the concept of “latent pain”. Latent pain, Bosworth says, is the pain that a prospect feels but…

  • Either doesn’t realize it’s a pain
  • Or has failed to find a solution so they have just grown to accept or accommodate the pain

Some examples (these are my own, not Bosworth’s) might include: Someone who has come to accept a low rate of return on their investments because they don’t know of a safe alternative that provides better returns; someone who keeps dumping oil into their leaky engine because they think the repair will be more than they can afford; or in the case of the target market for my Real Estate Investing Copywriter brand, a real estate investor who isn’t aware of the impact that copywriting might have on their ability to do more deals.

In the examples above, we see the lack of awareness of the pain or the accommodation of the pain as two factors contributing to a situation where someone simply doesn’t “feel the pain”. And as Bosworth suggests, a salesperson who goes to sell to these people will encounter resistance and even confusion because the person is not aware (or have become immune to) the pain point.

So the first step before talking about pain points with prospects — and especially before making assumptions about what pain points might exist — is to transition the prospect’s mindset from latent pain to felt pain. That is: To use the conversation (or the copywriting or however you sell) to first help the prospect discover that there is indeed pain. Then, and only then, should a seller turn the conversation to discussing the cost of the pain (and ultimately the solution).

This concept of latent pain can help to renew old prospects who didn’t seem interested in your product or service in the past, and it can increase your potential target market to people who might have latent pain, rather than just those for whom the pain is a pressing concern.

Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and he's a real estate investor and a copywriter for real estate investors.

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