The other day, a new client was speaking with me about their struggle to convert sales. Their company has a fantastic product with extraordinary proven results, but their prospects don’t seem to ‘get it’ enough to go through with a purchase. The more he described his sales process and his dialogue with his prospects, I realised he was missing a crucial element: pain. Specifically, his prospect’s pain. His prospects were interested in his product but it didn’t solve a problem; it just did something extra that previous products hadn’t done before. There wasn’t any pain, and where these is no pain there is no urgency and no need to buy. Pain is one of the crucial elements in selling.

According to the solution selling methodology, there is a formula for selling, as shown below.

Pain x Power x Vision x Value x Control = Sale.

Think of each element as a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, which can be represented as a ‘1’ or ‘0’ respectively.

If each element is a ‘1’, then the formula results in a ‘1’, which means a successful sale. Congratulations.

On the other hand, if even just a single element is a ‘0’, then the formula results in a ‘0’, which means no sale. Bummer.

It is as simple as this: if you don’t have a ‘yes’ for each element, then the chance of a successful sale is zero.

Let’s examine each of these elements:


People typically buy for 2 reasons – pain and pleasure. Generally, pain is the more effective motivator. Pain equates to need, and the stronger the pain, the more urgent the need. As mentioned, people also buy for pleasure, such as for enjoyment or to improve status, but most business-to-business selling is focussed on pain. Pain is hard to ignore and means that the prospect is likely to take action.

To determine if you have a ‘1’ for this element, ask yourself:

  • Is the prospect likely to act?
  • Has the prospect acknowledged high priority pain to you?
  • Have you validated the pain with the decision maker?
  • Do you understand how others are impacted by the pain? (see The Pain Chain below)
  • Is a budget in place to solve the pain?
  • Is a timeline in place in solve the pain?


The power element refers to whether you are engaging with a person with the authority and ability to make the purchasing decision.

To determine if you have a ‘1’ for this element, ask yourself:

  • Are you aligned to the right people to win?
  • Do you understand who the key people are regarding opportunity?
  • Do you understand who will influence the decision and how?
  • Do you have the support of the key people?
  • Are you connected with the people who have access to funds?


The vision element refers to whether the prospect believes that your solution can solve their problem, and whether they can see themselves making a decision in your direction.

To determine if you have a ‘1’ for this element, ask yourself:

  • Does the prospect prefer your offering?
  • Did you help establish the initial requirements?
  • Does your offering fit their needs / requirements?
  • Have you created or reengineered a differentiated vision for the key people?
  • Do the key people support your solution / approach?


Value refers to whether the prospect believes that your solution provides value as a solution to their problem.

To determine if you have a ‘1’ for this element, ask yourself:

  • Does your offering provide value?
  • Do you understand the benefit to each key person?
  • Have the key people quantified and articulated the benefits of your solution to you?
  • Has the prospect prepared a business case or value analysis?
  • Does the business case or value analysis warrant access to funds?


And finally, control refers to whether your prospect feels that they are in the driver’s seat in the sales process, including deciding timing, scope definition, next steps, and even pricing.

To determine if you have a ‘1’ for this element, ask yourself:

  • Has the prospect explained their decision making process and criteria?
  • Has the prospect explained their buying practices, policies and procedures?
  • Has the prospect been part of the scope definition process?
  • Has the prospect agreed to an evaluation process?

The strength of your sale depends on having strong, definite, positive answers to each of these questions. Any areas that are a bit wobbly are gaps that need to be filled or weaknesses that need to be strengthened.

The pain chain

The pain that a person experiences will almost certainly be different depending on their role and responsibilities within an organisation. What tends to happen is the underlying problem and its associated pain flow throughout an organisation.

Here’s an example of a pain chain in action:

  • The CEO is worried about earnings per share decreasing. She attributes that to eroding profits.
  • The CFO is worried about eroding profits. She attributes that to missing revenue targets.
  • The Sales Director is worried about missing revenue targets. She attributes that to the salespeople spending too much time on administration.
  • The CIO is worried the current systems aren’t meeting the needs of the sales department. She attributes that to the CRM system being inflexible and hard to use.

Notice that each person’s analysis of the problem is the next person’s worry.  The worry – or pain – flows through the organisation meaning different things to different people.

If you were selling a CRM system, you would use this pain chain as follows:

  • When talking to the CEO, talk about how your solution will increase earnings per share
  • When talking to the CFO, talk about hitting revenue targets
  • When talking to the Sales Director, talk about being able to manage how the salespeople use their time
  • When talking to the CIO, talk about ease of installation, ease of integration and ease of use

Drawing a pain chain is a great exercise to really understand your prospect and how your solution impacts the key people in the organisation.

For help in converting more sales and improving your success rate with clients, call us on 07 3211 4299 or email CHECK info@254.152.