When Dorothy landed in Oz, she wanted to go home and was told by the Munchkins to see the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. “But how do I find the Wizard”, she asked. “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”. “And the best way to start, is at the beginning”. And that holds true for the Sandler System as well. Start at the beginning.
The beginning step in the Sandler Sales Process is to establish bonding and rapport with your prospect. Once you've created a good relationship with this person, you can then set an up-front contract on what you will discuss, typically their agenda and yours, with a specific outcome in mind. This up-front contract should lead them down the path towards revealing some pain. If there's no pain to reveal, then you can shake hands and part as friends, and move on to the next prospect. However, if you do reveal some pain, then you schedule a next meeting where you can delve deeper into the prospects issues and pain.
THE PAIN FUNNEL IN ACTION
Let's look at a sample story showing the pain funnel in action. In this story, our sales person works for a contractor who builds navigation systems for fighter jets, and has an appointment to see Henry Jones. Henry has an engineering background and is very technical in nature. Watch how the sales person starts out using the questions from the Sandler Pain Funnel to better understand his prospect, and then slowly moves Henry through the funnel towards a sale. The questions are broad at first, but then become more specific and designed to make the prospect more emotional. The idea is to grasp Henry's problems and lead him to reveal how the problems affect Henry personally.
Henry starts by asking the salesperson, “Can you design a system that will easily retro- fit our F-16s so that rewiring will not be problematic?” As you can see, this is a very technical question for a very technical problem. The salesperson can try one of one two things: answer the question directly and speak about the product's features and benefits, or try to uncover the real intent of the question and ultimately, if there's any pain. In this example, the salesperson employs the Pain Funnel to dig for the pain behind the prospect's question. The salesperson responds, “You know, that's a great question. Can you tell me more about that?” Henry answers back, “Yes. We've had some experiences retrofitting F-16s with different types of equipment and ran into some challenges. It takes a very long time to rewire the system, and that becomes problematic when you have to disconnect wiring harnesses and lots of other systems that are related to whatever it is we are installing.” The salesperson probes, “Can you be a bit more specific? Give me an example.”
Keep in mind, each and every question the salesperson asks comes from the Pain Funnel. Even though the questions are in order, you can tell it offers a very smooth arc to the overall conversation. If you have internalized the questions and the process, it won't feel awkward guiding a prospect through the Pain Funnel in exactly the order prescribed.
Henry continues, “Well, recently we had to retrofit replacements into the planes. We had to take out the ejection seats and remove some of the navigational systems. We even had to get into the hydraulics. So, what we originally anticipated would be a 25-hour job turned into a job that lasted close to 200 hours. It's not so much the hours that really bothers us as the amount of time the fighters have to be out of service in order to get it done.” The salesperson continues down the Pain Funnel, “How long has that been a problem?” “It's been two years that we've been dealing with this,” Henry replies. “OK. What have you tried to do about that?” the salesperson asks, following the Pain Funnel method exactly.
Henry answers, “We talked to a contractor to see if there was a possible fix, and they came up with some recommendations.” The salesperson goes to the next Pain Funnel question: “And did that work?” Henry responds, “The only potentially viable solution they came up with was to redesign the entire system. That would actually take the planes out of commission for even longer.” The salesperson asks, “Do you have any idea how much that would cost you?” “A lot. But it's not just dollars. It also puts peoples' lives at risk. Every day that one of those planes is out of service, we risk not having a jet ready to protect people”, Henry says more emotionally now. “How do you feel about that?” the salesperson asks sincerely. (Or alternatively, the salesperson could ask, “What's your level of commitment to seeing if there is a way to make sure this problem doesn't happen again?”) “Honestly? We're very upset this is happening, and we have to get it fixed. We need solutions that minimize the amount of time these planes are out of service. Do you think you can help us?”, Henry pleads.
THAT'S HOW IT WORKS
In our prior scenario, the salesperson effectively uncovered Henry's pain. So what's next? Uncover even more pain. An effective Pain Step means uncovering 3 to 5 elements of pain the prospect is dealing with. However, don't use the same approach each time, vary it a bit to keep the prospect unaware of what you are doing. A classic bit of sales wisdom is, “The best presentation you will ever give is the one the prospect doesn't see.” Since the prospect has revealed to you what to present in order to win the sale, you will want to move forward in the sales process by offering direct solutions that relieve his pain. However, don't do it right away. First, be sure you really have uncovered three to five pains, and done a good job on the Budget and Decision Steps. In other words, stay within the Sandler Seven Step process. At this point, you will be ready to present the appropriate solutions in the Fulfillment Step. Moreover, if you've done your job correctly, like Dorothy did, and followed the Yellow Brick Road to Oz, all you need to do is click the Ruby Slippers together and the deal will close itself, and may even take you some where over the rainbow!