Are you losing money because of this terrible sales question?

Could 90 million hits about pain points as a selling technique be wrong?

I think so and here’s why.

Whether the prospect has a big pain or a little one, once you get rid of that pain, your work is done.

You sold your firm as the pain reliever. When there’s no more pain, your firm is no longer valuable to the client.


Pun intended.


This problem came up in a conversation I just had with the owner of a firm that offers leadership development services.

He and his team are expert executive coaches. They know that coaching can ameliorate many undesireable leadership traits. His firm’s promise is that they will improve leadership so the client company can do its work.

That’s great for the client but not so great for the provider.

They’ve built a practice based on once-and-done.

“We assess, we coach where indicated. We say goodbye.”

  • They do a ton of marketing to generate a steady stream of clients.
  • They make lots of discovery calls and write lots of proposals.
  • There’s tons of follow up on those proposals.
  • They need a large roster of coaches on standby so they can respond quickly.

This firm’s situation is not unique.

There are many professional and business services firms with a similar model.

They ask prospects about their pain points, and they offer solutions to relieve the pain.

Once they’ve succeeded, it’s goodbye!

Examples among my own clientele:

  • Website designers
  • Sales trainers and coaches
  • Business lawyers who write contracts or help companies apply for a specific tax status
  • HR experts who write Personnel handbooks
  • Internal corporate communication experts
  • Employee-side employment lawyers
  • Many more


What to do instead

Here’s the advice I gave to the Owner of the executive leadership firm.

You can use it too.

  1. Do NOT ask about pain points or any variation such as “what keeps you up at night?” or “Talk me through the challenges you’re facing right now.”
  2. Ask the question that really opens the conversation: “What’s going on that made you think of calling me?” Why does this work? Because it’s so open ended, and the prospect may have goals and growth in mind, not pain.
  3. Then continue by asking “Let’s say you get the life changing difference you’re thinking about. What would be the significance of it, on a scale of 1-10?”

Now you have very meaningful information given to you directly by the prospect.

The Choice Framework

Instead of offering your typical one-and-done service, you now have the foundation for a set of offers. This is the Choice Framework, which is one of the tools in the IBP 4-Pack.

You have the option of offering the fully expanded option, as well as two others that are more narrowly focused. Each option has its own proportional fee.

The Owner of the executive leadership firm admitted that because he’s a coach by training, he always thinks that’s the solution. He has many contractors that are qualified to provide other interventions, such as group leadership development programs and a variety of team building options.

If he stops asking about pain and instead asks about the life changing differences the prospect is seeking, he will be able to offer three options. This will replace the single pain relief combination of assessment+coaching.

It’s a habit

Many Owners and Executives tell me how probing for pain is ingrained in them. They struggle to stop themselves! After working with me awhile, the habit fades and is replaced with the 6 Questions.

It’s sometimes a matter of two steps forward and one step back. That’s okay, you’re human!

It’s also okay to ask for support. Text SUPPORT to 703-801-0345

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