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Sandler’s Pain Funnel:  Getting Beneath the Surface


Consider this scenario:  You sell a product or service that is truly unique.  You call on two companies just at a time when they are upset with their current vendors.  At the first company, your prospect grabs onto your offer with enthusiasm.  The second company, your prospect tells you she needs your service, but you just can’t get a signature.  Why do prospects behave so differently, when they appear to be facing identical situations?  Surface problems may be similar, but the underlying problems, as well as the prospect’s motivations, may be very different.  That’s when you need to employ Sandler’s techniques for uncovering pain, and lead your hesitant prospect down the Pain Funnel.

Sandler’s pain process uncovers the underlying reasons for your prospect’s pain, as well as its impact, by moving her from the general to the specific and, more important, from intellectual to the emotional.  In a simplified form, here’s how it works:  When your prospect states her surface pain (the problem she is willing to share up-front), follow this pain questioning path.

  • What have you tried before to fix the problem we’re discussing?
  • Tell me more.
  • Did that eliminate the problem?
  • Why do you suppose that didn’t work?
  • Why did you choose that approach the last time you made this decision?
  • What was the key issue that caused the alternatives to be ruled out?
  • Why was that the key issue?
  • Why was it so critical?
  • What lessons came out of the experience?
  • How much did it cost you?
  • What was most important to you personally?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • Have you given up trying to fix the problem?
  • How will your earlier experiences affect the decision on the solution you choose?
  • What will you do differently when choosing a vendor this time?
  • How committed are you personally to resolving the problem….not how committed is your boss or your team……..YOU?
  • Is there anything else I should know that would be helpful?

After you’ve asked these questions, you have more specific details of the problem.  You now know what the prospect has already done to try to solve it, why those efforts didn’t work, what this process has cost the company and how it has effected the prospect directly (and personally).  You’re now ready to move on in the qualifying process.


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