Finding Three Pain Points — How to Sell Progress

Finding Three Pain Points — How to Sell Progress

by Don Hall

As I indicated earlier, I do not possess the Sales Gene.

My brief stint selling window replacements did garner me some insight on the process that, as I look out into our divided country, I can’t help but wonder if the technique used to get people to spend $30,000 to replace their windows might have some value in selling our most untenable ideas to one another.

The art of selling windows (according to the two weeks of training I received) are found in gaining five commitments from the receiver but the one that really vibrates for this selling perspective in the marketplace of ideas concept is the first: the commitment to need. The training stressed that through a series of questions (rather than statements) one needed to find at least three pain points in order to move forward. No pain points, no need for your services.

These are defined as locating, using specific questions, the problems people may be having that your product or service can rectify. Building up a sense of urgency in solving these pain points is the skill required and that sense of urgency is created through appealing to an emotional rather than pragmatic foundation.

Granted, these are leading questions. You’re looking for the receiver’s problems and to emotionally connect with them in order to offer a solution. The most important aspect is that you are asking questions rather than making statements.

The second part of this is to create a sense of urgency through emotions rather than pragmatics. People make decisions with their fallible, fickle, what the fuck feelings rather than what is perhaps in their best interests pragmatically. Even progressive liberals. Even the Alt Right and the SJWs. Even your mom.


“Your old windows are against your interests, you mouthbreathing fucktard!” is never going to close the deal. Ever.


Using this as a model (which, according to the window people, is foolproof) let’s look at how we sell our ideas to the Other Side.

The RIGHT says “These people are illegally in our country and are using resources and taking jobs that are rightfully mine. And they are criminals at least in terms of entering the country and probably much worse.”

The LEFT says “These people are refugees and detaining them for avoiding the bureaucracy of the immigration policies is inhumane. America was built upon immigrants and we respond by putting their children in death camps!”

Neither is selling their specific idea. Neither is asking questions. Neither is persuasive in the least. Because no one is listening and everyone talking past one another, the evolving of any discussion becomes the highly popular but completely ineffective “Shut up and listen to ME!” approach. Then the name calling, doxxing, death threats, and the election of Trump & Co.

Using the Window Replacement Sales Technique, the RIGHT would ask questions.

“Have you experienced someone cutting in line in front of you? How did that make you feel?”
“Do you know anyone who has experienced gang violence due to a drug war? Where do you think those drugs come from?”
“Have you ever been passed up on employment only to find out someone here illegally got the job?”

The LEFT might ask other questions.

“Where did your forebears come from? Do you know the story of how they came to America and became citizens?”
“Have you ever been waiting all day in a DMV only to be told that your paperwork isn’t proper and come back tomorrow? Did you come back or put it off after that?”
“Have you ever travelled to another country and didn’t quite understand how things worked over there? How did it feel that no one spoke English?”

Both sides looking for common ground. Both avoiding making statements or presenting facts (as we know, facts don’t matter when it comes to emotional decisions and all decisions are emotional). Trust me, telling someone they’re stupid for not replacing their windows despite the facts that their windows are twenty years old, warped and are jacking up their monthly energy bill to ridiculous heights is not going to sell them on new windows. “Your old windows are against your interests, you mouthbreathing fucktard!” is never going to close the deal. Ever.

The simple (perhaps sad) truth is that people mostly make decisions based upon their own self interest. You want the 0.2% of the country’s police to be prosecuted for their racist abuse? Cater to the self interest of the other 99.8% to police themselves and coordinate with citizen oversight to weed those renegade cops out of the force rather than simply declare that all police are evil.

Find three pain points and sell the solution.

When it comes to sexual harassment, I think we’re going about finding solutions poorly. To dismiss the very personal question “What if it was your daughter or wife or sister or mother?” is a mistake. This sort of question makes it personal and emotionally connecting. It opens the pathway to empathy on an individual level. It exposes a potential pain point and leaves the receiver open to more information. “Be better.” and “Don’t rape.” are empty and meaningless without some call for personal empathy.

For many years, I taught theatrical improvisation. I love improvisers. The very best of the best understood how contrary to human nature the art form is: selfless rather than selfish. That cream of the crop understood fundamentally that success was due almost entirely by focusing on your partner’s success. The worst were only looking out for their moment to shine, effectively forcing the others to dance to their tune.

One of the lessons I tried to impart was likewise simple to get but difficult to employ. Communication is the responsibility of the person communicating not the audience. If the audience isn’t listening or understanding what it is you’re trying to get across to them, it is your fault, not theirs. Complaints that “they didn’t get it” or “they were a terrible audience” are dodges from taking responsibility for being poor communicators.

Call it tone policing if you want but the fact is that if you are yelling at me, telling me I’m stupid or evil or indelibly stained with privilege, I’m not buying fucking windows from you. Ever.

Ask questions.
Understand that decisions are emotional rather than pragmatic.
Appeal to self interest.
Sell those windows.


My wife wonders why I bother to even write these sorts of things as she believes that it ultimately falls on deaf ears due to all the blood being forced into the outrage part of the brain. Trying to digest Trump is hard, so she wonders what good I think I’m doing. She wonders why I’m shoving so hard against what is basic human nature.

I’m not simply being contrarian. I’m not simply playing the provocateur. I’m far from centrist in my political leanings. 

For eight years during the George W. Bush reign, I was The Angry White Guy in Chicago. I was a curmudgeon years before my time and I was fucking good at it. I raged and ranted online long before there was social media. That skin fit nicely on me and I was doing the SJW thing before most today were even out of diapers and I realized after Trump was elected that none of it accomplished anything at all except alienate people. I participated in the protests against the invasion of Iraq and saw that it didn’t matter much.

Ultimately, I’m a hopeless optimist. I believe in the principles that this country strives for despite it’s history. I have hope that if we can cease the mass media fueled outrage cycle of every three days and hunker down to do the hard work of truly building bridges, selling our good ideas, and finding compromises with those Americans whom we disagree with, we might actually Make America Great.

Not again but for the first time.

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