How to Succeed at Finding Pain (Why People Buy)

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How to Succeed at Finding Pain (Why People Buy)

Greg Nanigian, Sandler trainer from Boston and new author of Why People Buy, joins us to talk about the best practices for uncovering Pain. You will learn how to discover why people buy and what to do about it. Greg shares how to start sales conversations that close deals and how to uncover the emotional reasons people buy from you.

Learn how to succeed at finding pain!

Mike Montague: I’m your host, Mike Montague, and my guest this week is Greg Nanigian. He is a Sandler trainer from Boston and author of the brand new Sandler book, Why People Buy. And we’re going to talk to him about how to succeed at finding pain.

Greg, welcome to the show. Tell me a little bit about the book, Why People Buy, finding pain, and who should be paying attention to the podcast today.

Greg Nanigian:  Well, Mike, thanks for having me on the show. I think the Sandler concept of uncovering the prospect’s pain or the client’s pain is one of the most misunderstood concepts. And as a result of that, and to help people that, let’s say, aren’t at least 70% happy with their closing ratio, the number of appointments they’re booking, or how long it takes to close the deal, I wrote the book, Why People Buy. And, I think that people that might want to read it are people that perhaps feel like maybe they’re getting good results, but they feel like they’re working too hard for a number of results that they’re getting. Or, maybe they’re getting not so good results, and they want to get better results and sales? But it’s really for people that want to work smarter when they’re selling. And it doesn’t matter if you’re making 35,000 a year, 350,000 a year, or a million dollars a year, two million dollars a year. I think if you feel like you’re working too hard for the results you’re getting in sales, that this book will help you.

Mike Montague: Yeah. I find this topic so interesting because David Sandler was one of the first people to identify pain as a motivating factor versus features and benefits and the old marketing hype that people used to sell with. And that was 50 years ago, but it’s still news to people that they need to be reminded about because everybody still defaults to that old traditional way of selling, which is over 100 years old now. So I think everybody’s heard the word “pain,” but still nobody knows how to do it, or they just keep forgetting, right?

Greg Nanigian: Yeah, I think that’s so true. And lots of times, in my experience, what people interpret as a client’s or prospect’s “pain,” isn’t pain. It’s in Sandler what we call a technical problem or a pain indicator. But real and true pain is a deep-seated emotional need that’s very compelling. And when people start sharing the pain with the salesperson, it could sound like they’re using words of they’re fearful, or they’re uncertain, or they doubt, or they have anxiety, or they’re concerned, or they’re angry or very upset about something. And only when we’ve uncovered pain to the point where they’re sharing emotional words like that are we really and truly uncovering what we at Sandler term as pain.

And the rule that goes with this is that people buy emotionally. They only make decisions intellectually. And yet, there’s another Sandler rule that goes with that which says to relieve the pain, we must get the prospect to relive the pain. I think it’s a Sandler rule. Maybe I made that up and thought it was a Sandler rule. But to relieve the pain, we must get the prospect to relive the pain. And so when you go into a sales call, it’s not good enough, it’s not effective enough that perhaps we met in that sales call, somebody told us what the prospect’s pain is. And so we know it, and they know it, what we need to do on that sales call is have a meaningful conversation to get things to the point where the prospect is sharing that pain, conversing about it. And in a sense, reliving it. And once they do that, it can be very compelling. It can move things forward.

And if you can’t uncover pain, then it’s one of two reasons. One is the prospect just doesn’t have any, the other is the sales person wasn’t really effective enough to uncover what pain the prospect does have. But people buy ways to avoid and overcome pain. Without pain, we don’t have a qualified prospect. And that’s why it’s so important for us as salespeople and sales managers to highly effective in uncovering pain or coaching others to uncover pain.

Mike Montague: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense, and we’ve moved into attitude a little bit. You mentioned finding pain as one of your key drivers as a salesperson when you’re going into a call, but what are some of the other attitudes we want to make sure that we have in our head going into a sales call? And then maybe some of the common attitudes that we want to avoid, or common mistakes you see out there?

Greg Nanigian: Yeah, I like to think of attitudes more as mindsets. What’s my mindset? What’s your mindset going into this sales call? And I think that that can vary depending upon the situation. And when I say mindset, here’s what I mean. Mike, did you ever play sports? Team sports? What did you play?

Mike Montague: Soccer?

Greg Nanigian: Okay. So, you practice, practice, practice. Right now it’s game day. And before you get out in the field or once you get out on the field, the coach circles up the whole soccer team, right? And he has a little talk with the team. And what’s that talk all about?

Mike Montague: Usually about best effort or leaving it all out on the field? I don’t know.

Greg Nanigian: Yeah. It’s not really a talk about technique; it’s more of a talk about attitude and mindset. And it’s a talk to help pump people up and help them develop the right attitude and mindset for the soccer game. And I think that salespeople before they go on a sales call, they need to develop a certain mindset for the sales call. So for example, I had a client call me up and want a little bit of coaching. He sells very high-end office furniture. And he got a phone call from a prospect that was shopping for office furniture up on eBay. Frequently, people up who are on eBay sorting by price. So they’re going to sort with the lowest price first, and the highest price last. So, this fellow’s name is Dan. He wanted to know what he should do, what should his attitude be going into that sales call, or mindset be going into the call.

And what I explained to him is the Sandler rule. If you know something’s going to be a problem, bring it up front, get it out of the way. The question is, how do you bring this up? So I suggested to him that, once he does a little bonding rapport with the gentleman, he says to the gentleman, “Hey, listen. I appreciate you inviting me in here, but I have to ask you something. You’re shopping up on eBay, and generally, when people shop, they’re looking for low price furniture. And we have the most expensive office furniture in the world. Can you help me with why you thought it might have been a good idea for us to get together?” And so, right away, the prospect started to explain that what he was looking for up on eBay he could not find. He wanted 25 matching workstations, and he wanted very high-end workstations. He was unable to find that up on eBay, and he was frustrated because he likes using eBay, but he wasn’t able to find what he needed up there this time.

And so, being frustrated, that is a pain. So Dan qualified him that he had at least one pain. And so, mindsets can vary. I think the key one here is … We’ve got to uncover three, four, five pains early on in the sale cycle to be effective as a qualifying prospect.

Mike Montague: And then real quickly, what’s one that you don’t want to have? What do bad people do?

Greg Nanigian: They go in with a mindset or an attitude of, “Hey, I’ve got a great product, and I’m going to promote my product and talk about the future’s benefits, advantages, and what makes me better.” And that’s old school selling, and it’s not very effective. I think the correct attitude is, “I’m going to listen 70% of the time and only talk 30% of the time. And by doing that, I’ll gather information, which will eventually lead me to their pain. Or I’m going to find out they don’t have any.”

Mike Montague: That’s perfect. So, as we move over to behavior, what are some of the things we need to do on the call? What are our goals, plans, and actions that we need to be prepared to kind of lay out what finding pain looks like?

Greg Nanigian: Well, certainly, we need to set in Sandler what we call an upfront contract. It’s a verbal agreement between the prospect and the salesperson, or the client and the salesperson, as to what’s going to take place on the sales call. And I’ll come right back to up-front contracts, but certainly, we need to be effective at establishing bonding rapport. And the Sandler methodology, we have several behavioral and communication models that help us do that. We have DISC, which is a great model to understand the communication style of the prospect and be able to match that communication style. And studies have shown that if you’re effective with the DISC model, you’ll be 25% more effective than you are right now.

We have neuro-linguistic programming, which gets into all the marrying and matching. And then we have another model called transactional analysis, which talks about ego states and how we should use 70% nurturing parent and 0% critical parent on the sales call and 30% adult, that’s the logical part of our personality. So, those are models that I would encourage sales people to learn. I talk about them in the book, Why People Buy, and I think you’ll get a lot out of that.

Mike Montague: Yeah, I think that’s really cool, is you talk about bonding rapport and up-front contracts, setting the stage to help you make sure that you get honest answers when you’re asking for pain. The doctor just doesn’t come in and start asking you personal questions. He always warms you up, which is always funny. They ask the question like, “How are you doing today?” And you’re like, “Well, I’m in the hospital, so not so great.” But they’re doing that to set the stage to get good answers to the later parts, so let’s move there.

Greg Nanigian: Right. So you establish bonding rapport first but using the Sandler methodology, you’re doing it very seamlessly and covertly. And then we would move into what we call the upfront contract, which is an agreement on a number of points. But, for example, how long the sales call is going to last, what the purpose of the sales call is. So in Dan’s case, the purpose of the sales call was to determine if it makes sense for them to work together and to help this prospect outfit their office with 25 workstations. What was on the prospect’s agenda? That’s part of the sales call, and it’s part of the upfront contract for the sales call. What’s on Dan’s agenda? Finally, what are potential outcomes? Should we close the file and part as friends? Or does it make sense to take another step? And so, setting the stage to ask questions and find out what’s on the prospect’s agenda, that’s the upfront contract. And then finally, now, we can start to move into the pain step, which is only the third step of the seven-step Sandler selling process methodology.

Mike Montague: And so, tell me more about the pain step. When we get to there, what happens?

Greg Nanigian: Well, on the sales call, sometimes it’s just a great way to open the sales call is to say to the prospect, ” Thanks again for inviting me in. I’m hoping I have something for you. Can you help me with why you thought it might have been a good idea to get together?” And it’s kind of like tennis. It’s like a tennis match, right? So, I just whack the ball over to the other side of the net. Now it’s on the prospect’s side of the net, and it’s his job to hit the ball back to me. So I lobbed out a question, “Why’d you think it might have been a good idea for us to get together?” And before I even said the question, I expressed appreciation, “Thanks for inviting me in.” But then I also said, “I hope I have something for you. I’m hoping I have something for you.” Which shows some level of humility, and if you think about it, how would a prospect feel when a salesperson says that?

My thought is that the prospect is thinking, “Golly, I hope you have something for me.”

Mike Montague: Right.

Greg Nanigian: “Because I’ve got a problem to fix.” Right? And then, you don’t sound like an amateur. You don’t sound like you’re trying to sell something, which is very disarming to the prospect. And now they’re thinking, “Golly, I kind of have to sell the salesperson on why they’re here.” And you ask the perfect follow-up question, which is, “Can you help me with why you thought it might have been a good idea for us to get together today?” Now, they start explaining as a suggestion for behavior, take notes. You’ll find if you take notes a lot, people just love to be interviewed, kind of put your head down, write a lot of notes. They’ll just keep talking and talking and talking. And that conversation will eventually lead to pain. You almost don’t need to do a whole lot of the techniques. Now, the book is jam-packed with other techniques, but that one alone is extremely powerful.

Mike Montague: Yeah, and as we get into techniques here, I love the behavior. I think … The first person that says, “Why are we here?” Wins the battle of control of the sales call here. So if you walk in and the prospect says, “Why are you here?” You’re going to have to defend and justify; you’re already on the defensive. If you walk in and say, “Why am I here?” Or, “Why are we getting together?” All of a sudden, they’re on the defensive, they get to start justifying the reasons for the call rather than you. And then, I love what you said about keeping them talking. So as we get into technique, what are some of the ways that we can do that?

Greg Nanigian: In Sandler, there’s something called the pain funnel. It’s a strategically organized set of questions that are designed to help us uncover pain or find out that the prospect doesn’t have any. And so, if you were to start off by saying to the prospect, “Can you help me with why you thought it might have been a good idea to get together?” And the prospect says, “Well, as you know, I’ve been hunting for some high-end office furniture. I’m trying to outfit my office, I’m going to have clients visiting at my office, and I want to make a great impression because we’re going after high-end clientele.” Then you could follow up his response with the first question the Sandler pain funnel, which would be, “Could you tell me a little bit more about that?”

So now the prospect expresses a little bit more about that and says, “Well, I have been shopping. I’ve been looking at things up on eBay. I’ve gone to a couple of office furniture stores, but I haven’t been satisfied with what I’ve been able to find.” The next question on the Sandler pain funnel is, “Could you be a little more specific? Perhaps give me an example?” “Well, yeah. I’m looking for 25 matching workstations. I want them to be made out of solid wood. I don’t want any kind of veneers or anything like that. I want something that’s contemporary in design, but not modern.” And so, the next question could be, “Well, besides what you’ve shared with me already, what other things have you tried to locate the sort of furniture that you’re looking for?” So they go from there.

So they could tell you about that, and you would say, “Well, how did that work out for you?” Obviously, it didn’t work out too good for them. Otherwise, the salesperson wouldn’t have been invited in. Right? And then you could say, “Well, how long has it been a problem?” So it keeps going in this progression until we get to a point where you’re asking questions like, “Well, how does that impact you? How do you feel about that?” And at that point, they’re sharing some of those pain questions or pain words, I should say, that I mentioned earlier. Fear, uncertainty, doubt, weary, anger, concern, anxiety. And we’re looking to uncover through these techniques three, four, five pains, specific pains, before we move on to the next step in the Sandler methodology.

Mike Montague: Yeah, I think that’s great, and I think you will start hearing those emotional words to know that you have something worth pursuing. But where do you go from there? I guess as we wrap this up a little bit, how do you know when you’ve found pain? And then what do you do if you’ve found it?

Greg Nanigian: Okay, so first of all, listen to the vocabulary. Are you hearing emotional words or intellectual words, right? Secondly, look at the body language of the prospect. If you’re face to face, you’re going to see that they’re going to start to look a little bit not okay. Maybe the blood comes out of their face; maybe the blood rushes in their face; maybe they’re hunched over a little bit more than when you first met them? Now, by the way, skipping back to the technique for just a second, when that start to happen, show empathy. I mean, you could feel good inside, you’re uncovering pain, but don’t start smiling when you’re on the sales call because that’s just going to cause the prospect to shut down. We want to keep that safe environment going.

Mike Montague: Right.

Greg Nanigian: And generally, the third thing you can look for is the speech. So if they started off highly visual, talking very rapidly, when you start to uncover pain, they will generally slow down. People move into a mode of orientation called kinesthetic, kind of a touchy-feely, tactile, visceral sort of a mode of orientation. And when they move to that while you’re uncovering pain, their speech will slow down, and they’ll say fewer words per minute.

Mike Montague: Once again, we’re talking with Greg Nanigian, and he is a Sandler trainer from Boston, and author of the Sandler book, Why People Buy. So if you found, what you’ve been hearing so far, interesting, and maybe you have a little bit of pain around finding pain, you might want to check out that book, Why People Buy. And, you can always just look for Sandler Training and Why People Buy on Amazon or go to and find it as well. But Greg, I want to learn a little more about you. How do you define success?

Greg Nanigian: Doing it better and more of it. It’s funny, I have a meeting with my team pretty much on a weekly basis, and the theme of the meeting is always, “We want to do it better, and we want to do more of it.” So, that’s how I define success and doing it in an honest, ethical, moral, and legal manner.

Mike Montague: Yeah. And what were the biggest lessons learned or hurdle you had to get over in your career?

Greg Nanigian: That’s a great one. I think it was a conceptual problem that I had in not realizing for a while what the worth is or the value is what we have to offer. And I think when you think you’re going to bill out a 350 an hour, you’ll … You won’t get a five for an hour. When you start thinking you’re worth 500 an hour, you’ll get it. And when you think you’re worth 1,000, 2,000 an hour, $30,000 a day, you’ll start getting that kind of money. And I think that this is a challenge that all of us have, no matter how much money we’re making. We’re still sometimes, I believe, limited by the concept of what our product or service or our time is actually worth. I think that’s been an ongoing goal of mine to overcome that, help my people overcome that, and help my clients to overcome that, as well.

Mike Montague: Yeah. I appreciate you sharing that, and it’s an interesting one for salespeople or just business owners in general. One of the cool things I think about either one of those professions is that you can give yourself a raise.

Greg Nanigian: That’s right.

Mike Montague: If you get better at what you do, you can raise your prices or sell more to give yourself a higher paycheck at the end of the month, so that’s great. What is your superpower and origin story? How did you get that superpower? What do you lean on when you need to be successful?

Greg Nanigian: I lean on my faith, to be candid with you. That’s it for me. That’s what keeps me going and gives me my strength. That’s for me. Other people, they lean on other things, but for me, it’s my faith.

Mike Montague:  Well, good. I like that answer. And what’s your favorite Sandler rule?

Greg Nanigian: Get an IOU for everything you do.

Mike Montague: Oh, that’s a good one.

Greg Nanigian: Get an IOU for everything you do. Yeah, I’ll give you an example of that. So I had a very good client of mine who, over the last couple of years, has paid us a lot of money. We’ve done a lot of work. He’s had a ton of growth, and he recently invested in putting a new building on his property and a bunch of other things. And so, for the first time in a long time, instead of paying me on the due date, he asked if he could stretch the payment for a month. And I said, “Yeah, no problem.” But in my reply, and this was by email, I said, “I got a favor to ask. And I’d like to ask for level three pricing.”

Now, let me explain what that is. This fellow has a lumber yard. He’s got outside salespeople, he’s got inside salespeople, and he’s got customer service people. Extremely successful, big lumber yard. 70% of his workers with contractors, the other 30% is with homeowners. And I’m thinking about having some work done on my home. And thinking ahead, level three pricing is a discounted pricing level. Level one is their retail price, level two is something less than retail, and then level three is what they give to the contractors. And he replies, “Yeah, sure. No problem.” So I extended the payment terms for 30 days and I got … Get an IOU for everything you do. So for the IOU, I asked him for level three pricing.

Mike Montague: Nice.

Greg Nanigian: So if I need materials for the addition, I’ve got them at a discounted rate.

Mike Montague:  Yeah. I think that’s a fun Sandler rule, and we haven’t had anybody bring that one up yet. So, I like it. Based on what we talked about today, finding pain and Why People Buy, what’s one attitude you would like people to have to leave the podcast?

Greg Nanigian: I think your effectiveness in your career is determined more so by the skill of uncovering pain than any other selling skill that we can acquire.

Mike Montague: And one key behavior you would like them to start doing?

Greg Nanigian: Is it okay if I recommend two?

Mike Montague: Yeah.

Greg Nanigian:  I’d suggest you seek out a local Sandler office and ask them if you can sample their training, sit in on a workshop program. And obviously, short of that, buy the book.

Mike Montague: That’s great. And the best techniques you use?

Greg Nanigian: Sandler pain funnel is phenomenal. If you can memorize that organized set of questions, that’d be great. If you can’t memorize it, have it in front of you. You can use it when you’re on the phone. You can bring it with you on a sales call. You can always introduce it by saying to the prospect, “You know before I came over here today, I thought a lot about our get together and I jotted down some questions. Are you okay if I share those with you now? I think it’ll help me to do a better job in determining whether or not I have anything for you. Is that okay that I get them out?”

Mike Montague: I like it. And anything else you want to add on this topic, why people should check out the book, find pain, anything? The time is yours, my friend.

Greg Nanigian: Well, you know, I would just say to get people ready for what’s in the book that it’s real, as Sandler used to say, David Sandler himself, our methodology’s 180 degrees opposite of traditional approaches to selling. It really will change the whole way that you sell. My belief is that it’ll help you so much in your career and to help you and your family have a richer, fuller life.

Mike Montague: Greg, thanks for being on the show. For more information on this topic, you are going to want to find his book, Why People Buy, at And as always, you can follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter at Sandler Training or get any of our other free resources at You can also subscribe or leave us a review on iTunes or Google Play. Thank you for listening, and remember, whatever you are, be a good one.

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