Most salespeople are taught some variation of solution selling: Find a buyer with a problem, and show how your product or service can solve that problem. In other words, find the buyer’s “pain” and relieve it.

That’s a great way to sell – for buyers who have some pain to be discovered. That includes, for example, buyers who come to you (since something motivated them to make the effort) as well as those who just happen to be facing a problem when you reach out to them.

But many buyers aren’t in that position. Sure, things aren’t perfect – nothing ever is – but they’re okay.

If the buyer’s not in pain, how do you sell to them?

Conventional wisdom suggests that you dig deeper to find the secret pain that even the buyer may not realize is there. Or you find a little bit of pain and try to “enlarge” it. Either approach can backfire. If you keep pushing, buyers are likely to feel defensive. They end up thinking that YOU are the source of their pain. End of discussion.

Steve Von Hoene, one of RLI’s Distinguished Thought Leaders, offers a different approach for buyers who tell you everything’s okay. It’s based on the idea of the “Preferred Situation.”

Not everyone has a problem you can solve, he says. But everyone can imagine things being at least a little better. That’s what Steve calls the “Preferred Situation.” And if you build your sales conversation around that instead of pain, you avoid the negativity and defensiveness that accompany a pain-focused sales effort. Steve calls his approach GAPS, because there’s almost always a gap between the current situation and the Preferred Situation.

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