The Empowered Blog

Pain VS Gain: How to Best Motivate Buyers to Buy

 Guest Article by Dan Seidman

Dan Piano SMEI 3 StandingPicture this, you’re 12 years old and you fly into the house after school. “Mom, Dad, guess what I decided today? I’m gonna be a doctor!”

Mom is always encouraging. “Honey, that’s great! Doctors are well respected. You’ll make good money, have a nice spouse and a nice house. I’m so glad you’re going to be a doctor.”

In contrast, how might Dad respond? “A doctor? Are you kidding me? Do you know how many years you have to go to school to become a doctor? Do you know how much money it costs? And you’ll be working with sick people all day. And malpractice insurance…” And on and on and on he goes.

These two parents are revealing their decision-making processes. Mom likes good things, benefits. Dad sees a world of problems and pain.

If you’re a sales pro, this is something you’ll want to recognize in your buyers. Some of them are quite positive. They move toward your offerings. Others seem negative, disagreeable, moving away from ideas you offer.

In psychology we call this “direction.” Its origins? A 19th century philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer. He is credited with recognizing that people are motivated by their direction. Some seek to attain good things and move toward them. Others want to avoid problems, so they move away.

This has been adopted in Educational Psychology where students, teachers, administrators and parents are recognized by these two motivational categories.

What’s in this for you? Insights that will help you increase sales. The selling world was influenced to only offer benefits to buyers, beginning in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 80s, it was popular to sell by identifying a buyer’s “pain.”

Pain-based selling is still the rage. The problem is both approaches are right and wrong, depending on whether you recognize which buyer you’re dealing with. Great sales pros know exactly how to influence either type, because they ask a powerful question that tells which person is sitting in front of them (or on the phone). In a word, great salespeople know how to speak a buyers “dialect.” The seller matches language to the direction revealed by the buyer.

So how do we know which type of buyer we’re dealing with?

You ask a powerful question that reveals the buyer’s type. You ask this question, as early as possible, in a conversation. You then utilize your newly discovered verbal agility to speak their dialect.

First you get the question. Then you’ll learn how to build two distinct sales presentations – one for Pain and one for Gain-based buyers.

What’s important to you about… X?

X is your service or product offering. How to use this? I’ll give you real examples from a sales training program I recently designed for a major financial services firm. They learned to ask the question in a couple different ways;

What’s important to you about a financial services rep?


What’s important to you about a financial product?

The answers give you great insight into your buyer for one simple reason.

The buyers respond by sharing a story.

It’s a good story: “we really want at least a 10% return, so we can go on a Mediterranean cruise this fall.”


It’s a bad story: “The last guy who managed our money lost 40% of our portfolio. So we couldn’t afford to go on a Mediterranean cruise we planned.”

Now you know exactly what type of decision-maker you’re speaking to. So you know exactly what language you’ll use to reach them. TIP: If their answer is a bit vague (“We just want a better rep”), dig deeper “Okay, please tell me more about that.” and you’ll get their direction soon enough.

Once you know, you’ll need to be prepared to have some bullet points to use, Gain-based and Pain-based language to use during the sales call.

The following example comes from coaching a Mazda/ VW automotive dealership sales team.


TO (Gain, Benefits) AWAY (Pain, Problems
Lots of prestige in owning a nice, new car; lookin’ successful. Uh, I’m really embarrassed to take a client to lunch in my car.
New, unique color, nobody else has it. This older model doesn’t really send a message that I’m successful.
This is sooo fast; it’s fun to drive! I’m nervous and need a safe car, because my kids are riding in it regularly.
Super smooth ride, handles like a dream. This is the most comfortable car I could ever imagine. With this thing, I’m feeling every bump in the road. It’s killing my back.
1000-year warranty! All upkeep and maintenance is free. I’m frustrated by it breaking down every month. 


You get the picture. This is clear, simple to build and you’ll sound so much more convincing when you’re connecting with potential clients.

Build this chart now with your sales team. If you don’t have a team, brainstorm it with a networking group or fellow entrepreneurs. Just get this language down, because it’s critical to connecting with your buyers.

You now know whether to use Pain or Gain to best motivate buyers to buy.

If you’d like, I have a gift for you. It’s a Cheat Sheet of Pain and Gain-based language to use in constructing your chart. Send me an email and I’ll get it to you right way.


Dan Seidman was recognized as the International Sales Training Leader of the Year in 2013 for his work designing and re-designing existing sales training, in order to significantly increase sales team performance.  

His body of work can be found in The Ultimate Guide to Sales Training (Pfeiffer, 2012), a 600 page encyclopedia of best-practices. Dan is also the author of 5 books, including the #1 business best-seller, Sales Autopsy (Kaplan, 2006).  For training, coaching or consulting contact Dan today at 1-847-359-7860 or


Denise Corcoran works with CEOs and executive teams seeking rapid growth yet are challenged by the “invisible barriers” that keep them stuck, overwhelmed or in crisis mode. Her company —The Empowered Business — is one of the few companies providing whole brain, strategic solutions for unleashing leadership and organizational potential. Her secret sauce is assisting CEOs and executive teams develop the “X factor” – i.e., the mindset, attitudes and game-changing thinking -- that drives double and triple digit growth … by design.


Posted by Denise Corcoran on July 7, 2015 in Influence, Mindset, Motivation, Selling.

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