Fable Friday: The man who wouldn’t die

There’s an old story about a minister urging his parishioners to repent.  He thunders from the pulpit, “Everyone in this parish is going to die!”  The congregation shudders, except for one man sitting in front who begins to chuckle.

The annoyed minister says even louder, “That’s right. Think about what this means to you. One day, everyone in this parish, all of you, are going to die!”  Again the man begins to laugh. Having had enough, the minister asks him, “You sir, why do you find this so funny?” and the man replies, “I’m not from this parish.”

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedSo I guess this guy didn’t like the idea of considering his own mortality. Death is a painful subject, one that people typically don’t like to talk about.

Ask anyone in the Wealth or Trust business about this. They can’t get people to prepare adequately for their own demise. Discussions of wills and trusts are hard to do for many people.  One bank I know has changed the game in this regard. Instead of focusing on their clients’ inevitable death, they offer to help the client define his legacy, positioning it as a means to allow him to live on through the work of his wealth. The message is not about death, a painful topic, but about how people continue to live in the minds of others.

In a previous post I cited the social experiments that have been done with pain and fear of loss.  You’re offered a gamble on a coin toss. If it’s tails, you lose $100. If it’s heads, you win $150.  Would you accept this gamble?  To make this decision, you have to weigh the psychological impact of a $150 gain versus a $100 loss.  Although the expected value of the gamble is clearly positive, you probably dislike it. Most people do, as their fear of losing $100 is far more intense than their hope of gaining $150.  In many experiments similar to this one, psychologists and economists have concluded that losses loom larger than gains and that most people are loss averse.

But it’s deeper than that. People not only don’t like to lose; they don’t like to talk about losing, like our non-parishioner.

I imagine if you’re reading this you are in the sales business and at one point you read or were told that you have to uncover and explore the “pain points,” and this is not wrong. But it’s how you uncover them and how you explore them that makes all the difference.

You simply cannot say to your customer, “Where are you feeling the pain?” or “What keeps you up at night?”  Aside from being trite, they attempt to get the customer to talk about something he doesn’t want to discuss. If you’ve had problems getting to the pain discussion it’s probably because you approached it too directly, and awkwardly, with questions like this.

To sell more effectively, you have to take your time and let the conversation evolve. Find out what is most important to your client and what it is he is trying to achieve.  Only after this is done should you ask very granular questions about how he is doing things now.

If you’re astute and know your products and services well, you’ll soon be able to spot the gap between what the client wants most, and the way things are happening now.  That’s where the so-called pain is, but you’re never going to call it that are you?  Just keep pecking away at it and avoid putting your customer in a painful corner.  That’s how you…


Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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