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Discovering the Pain—

The Problem Phase

The Wedge Sales Call is a departure from traditional

selling. Some salespeople take to it with alacrity and

gusto. Others find it difficult at first to shake old habits.

Some of the sales professionals I have coached carry

around a card in their pocket listing the six steps, until

they no longer need a cheat sheet. What nearly all these

people have in common is that they are getting results using

The Wedge—results that are repeatable from one

prospect to the next, putting their performance on a new

and higher trajectory.

Unlike traditional selling, The Wedge Sales Call is

designed with the competition factored in at every step,

from precall research to the time the deal is signed and under

contract. As we have discussed, The Wedge also is

based on concrete, specific differentiation that focuses on

your strengths versus the competition’s weaknesses.

Because The Wedge is about your helping your

prospect come up with the solution rather than presenting

a solution to your prospect, it enables you to prevent objections

instead of having to overcome them. In a very real

sense, The Wedge is more like education than selling. The

root word of education is educe, to draw out. This is the

very opposite of presentation. The more you help your

prospects educate themselves as opposed to presenting to

them, the greater your chance of winning their business.

In short, The Wedge works. Since my clients started

using it, their success in many cases has been remarkable.

The Seven Rules of The Wedge

The Wedge Sales Call is based on human nature. As we

have discussed, it was distilled from the experience of salespeople

dealing with prospects. It is not a model reflecting

how a seller and a buyer should behave, but a set of techniques

to deal with how people actually behave. Its steps are

intended to move the sales process forward to closure naturally,

in a way that makes prospects feel as comfortable and

in control as possible. Unlike traditional selling with its

“gotcha” moment at which the salesperson does a trial

close or flat out asks for the business, The Wedge Sales

Call is a smooth, seamless conversation.

The Wedge Sales Call, to accommodate how people

actually behave, takes into account these seven rules that

govern human behavior:

1. No two objects can occupy the same space at the same time.

As previously noted, if your prospect has a relationship

with someone whose place you want to take,

then you must first remove that person in order to

fully take over the relationship. Even if an account is

open, you must keep your competitors out of the

space that you need to occupy to win.

2. Nothing is either good or bad except by comparison.

This is a critical aspect of differentiation. In order

to get your prospects to see how they are being

underserved, you must present a picture of ideal service

that creates a big enough gap between the ideal

service and their current service to cause pain. This is

what makes the difference meaningful. This is what

gives you something to sell.

3. It is easier to get someone to deny perfection than it is to get

them to admit to a problem.

When you are talking to prospects, it is better

to get them to see an ideal service they do not have

than to directly suggest that they have a problem to

solve. Getting them to see the ideal will motivate

them to want it. Suggesting that they have a problem

of their own doing will put them on the defensive

or, at a minimum, cause them to feel uneasy and


4. The easiest way to get someone defensive is to talk negatively

about a decision they have made.

This is why directly attacking a current provider

is not a useful sales tactic. It merely puts your prospect

on the defensive for having hired the provider. Nor

should you speak negatively of your other competitors,

as this makes prospects feel uneasy.

5. The more you push people, the more they will push back to

get even.

No one likes to be pushed into a corner with no

way out. Their natural reaction is to push back, and to

at least restore the equilibrium of their relationship

with you.

6. The best idea people ever heard was the one they thought of


Letting people discover their own solutions, as

opposed to telling them what they should do, more

powerfully commits them to those solutions. Remember your own resistance as a teenager when your parents

told you what you should do? When you help your

prospects discover their own solution, they will take

ownership of it and feel more comfortable inviting

you to help them achieve what they thought of.

7. To gain leverage, never ask for the sale unless it is absolutely

unavoidable. Make the prospect ask you.

When you ask for business, you are putting your

fate in the hands of the prospect, who can easily say

yes or no. When you are asked in by a prospect, you

have the power.

The most effective sales call is one that resembles a

conversation between two friends, as opposed to a negotiation

between a buyer and a seller. The Wedge Sales Call,

embodying these seven rules, is designed to promote that

kind of dialogue.

The Six Steps of The Wedge Sales Call

From this point forward, I use descriptive names for each

step of The Wedge Sales Call. These labels are intended to

capture the essence of each step. Let me lay out the whole

structure for you, and then we will go through The Wedge

Sales Call step by step. First, here is an outline of everything

from start to finish:

Discovering the Pain (The Problem Phase)




Proposing a Remedy (The Solution Phase)



Getting Your Competition Fired (The Commitment




This chapter takes you through the first phase of

The Wedge Sales Call. It is called the Problem Phase because,

together, you and your prospect define the problem

that needs to be fixed—the pain that needs to be

removed. First, I show you how to get your prospect to

discover his or her pain, using the PICTURE PERFECT technique.

Then I show you how, using the TAKE AWAY, you

can determine whether that pain is important enough to

motivate your prospect to hire you by firing the current

provider, or by dismissing your other competitors from


Chapter 5 looks at the Solution Phase. During this

phase, you and your prospect agree on the specific, concrete

remedy for your prospect’s pain. First, I show you

how to get your prospect to precisely define the solution

that he or she wants, using the VISION BOX. Next, we look

at how you can confirm that you understand the desired

solution by using the REPLAY.

Chapter 6 explains the two steps of the Commitment

Phase, the final part of The Wedge Sales Call, during

which you get your prospect to commit to doing business

with you. First, I show you how you can get your prospect

to invite you to do business by using the WHITE FLAG.

Then we go over how, using the REHEARSAL technique, you

can get your prospect to fire the current provider or to

break the bad news to your other competitors in order to

hire you.

To begin, then, let’s take a look at the first two steps—

PICTURE PERFECT and TAKE AWAY—exploring how and why

they work.

Step 1: Picture Perfect

If you are like most salespeople I know, the most rewarding

part of your job is helping people. What better way to

make a living could there be than getting paid to make a

positive difference for your prospects? That is why you

went into sales—in addition to the fact that it pays very

well if you are good at it.

Using The Wedge, you are going to do something

even better for your prospects. You are going to help

them help themselves. It is one thing to talk your

prospects into accepting services and products that will

yield some benefit, marginal or otherwise. It is quite another

to help your prospects discover their most important

needs, allowing you to focus your effort on helping

them meet those needs.

Remember the question I asked earlier? What if you

had a way to get your prospects to see how they are being

underserved without your having to say anything bad

about your competition, and to get them to see how great

you are without your having to say it? I am now going to

show you how to do that using PICTURE PERFECT.

Where Pain Resides

Finding pain is the turning point of a sales call. It is where

you stop merely presenting and shift your focus to winning.

Pain, you will recall, is the outside force you will use

to break apart the relationship between your prospect and

your competition. Pain is your means of driving The

Wedge. Firing providers or dismissing others from consideration

involves some discomfort on the part of your

prospect. It is up to you to help your prospect see that the

pain of telling someone good-bye is less than the pain of

continuing to tolerate mediocre service.

Your role in finding pain is similar to that of a detective

looking for clues. Just as a detective knows where to

look for clues at a crime scene, your precall research has

given you some good ideas of where to look for pain. And

just as a detective knows how to interrogate suspects and

witnesses, you will use questions to uncover any dissatisfaction,

frustration, concern, anxiety, unresolved issue, or

other discomfort your prospect is feeling.

To understand where pain resides, think of your

brain as a computer. On your computer screen at any

given time are up to half a dozen open windows. Think

of these as the thoughts you currently have at the front of

your mind. These thoughts represent your active memory—

in the same way that the open windows on your

computer screen represent the immediate activity of the

central processing unit (CPU) of your computer. If you

try to open too many windows at once on your computer

screen, little gremlins come out, your computer locks up,

and you suddenly blurt out colorful expressions. Your mind works the same way. Most people can handle only

six or seven active thoughts at one time before they hit


Fortunately, your brain also has a storage bin—a

rather vast one at that. It has enough capacity to house the

thoughts, memories, and feelings of your entire lifetime. If

your mind were a computer, this storage bin would be your

hard drive. It contains billions of bytes of information. All

that data sits there in ready reserve, waiting to be called up

and into your active memory by the CPU as soon as someone

makes the right keystroke.

These keystrokes are the questions people ask, and the

things they do, that pull something from your latent memory

into your active memory.

When you meet with your prospects, they may have

an active pain that was obvious to them even before you arrived

on the scene, or they might have a latent pain that

they have stored in the back of their mind related to something

they know needs to be done but that they have not

addressed and fixed. They might even have a potential pain

that does not exist at all—yet—because they have no idea

that something could be done any better. Whatever its

form, this pain is essential to winning business. If no realization

of a problem occurs, there is no solution—and you

have nothing to sell.

When you walk into your prospects’ offices, they have

a lot on their minds. Their active memories are going to be

full. They may have a copy of the new financial quarterly

report on their blotter. They may be looking at the sleeve

of their fresh white dress shirt or blouse that they have just

spilled coffee on. Today might be their anniversary or their child’s birthday. Or maybe they just got off the phone with

the current provider or one of your other competitors. You

are going to be competing for their attention. In fact, most

of the pain you are going to discover does not reside in

your prospects’ active memories. It is buried in their latent

memories. Therefore, you are going to use your questioning

skills to prompt your prospects to retrieve that pain,

and to feel it actively.

Why is most pain buried in the back of prospects’

minds? Obviously, from moment to moment, there is no

room for that pain in the front of their minds. They have

six or seven other things monopolizing their immediate attention.

But there is another reason that runs deeper, and

that explains why so much pain lies dormant for such a

long time.

Think about how you react to a problem. You do one

of two things: Either you solve it or you set it aside to solve

later. If you solve it, the problem disappears and you file it

away as finished business. If you do not solve the problem,

it is because you were distracted by something else or because

you could find no immediate solution. In that case,

you store the problem in your latent memory as unfinished

business. In other words, for every problem that arises, you

either fix it or forget it.

This goes back to what I said before about expectations.

Most prospects have forgotten their pain because

they have come to accept their current level of service.

They have reduced their expectations down to what they

are receiving. Their pain lies dormant. Until you can get

them to bring that pain to the surface, raising their expectations

that things can be better, you have nothing to sell them. Traditional selling does not directly address how you

can do this. The Wedge does.

Asking Questions That Uncover Pain

When you ask your prospect questions, your goal is to tap

into your prospect’s latent or active pain. Since you have

done your precall research, you should have some idea of

where to find your prospect’s pain. Similar prospects are

likely to have similar pain. Problems tend to repeat themselves

within the same kinds of businesses and industries.

So you should find it progressively easier to develop the

right questions to elicit pain as you call on more prospects

in your particular industry.

Regardless of the industry, the structure of the question

is the same. Here is the question you are going to ask

to get your prospect to focus on his or her pain:

“I’m curious. When you receive [a specific service] so that

you don’t have to worry about [a specific pain], are you

comfortable with that process?”

The question you have just asked is the PICTURE PERFECT

question. You have painted a picture of the ideal service

your prospect should be receiving. The structure of

the question is simple in order to keep things conversational—

but the question is powerful in the way it addresses

the two key problems not addressed by traditional selling

that we mentioned earlier. First, you are bringing up an

ideal service that your competition is not offering or the

current provider is not delivering. However, rather than attacking your competition, you are assuming that he or

she does a good job. Second, you are getting your prospect

to feel the pain of not currently receiving the PICTURE PERFECT

service you just described. Now you have something

to sell. Now you can use your prospect’s pain to start driving

The Wedge.

You have just taken the first step toward getting your

competition fired or dismissed from consideration—and

you did it without saying anything bad about your competitor.

You gave your competition the benefit of the

doubt. You assumed, in the question you asked your

prospect, that the current provider was already delivering

the ideal level of service, and that your other competitors

could provide it. At the same time, you got your prospect

to focus on his or her pain. You did this because pain avoidance

(eliminating the problem) is a more powerful motivator

than pleasure seeking (wanting the particular benefit).

PICTURE PERFECT is a powerful technique because,

like The Wedge itself, it is based on human nature. Remember

the third rule of The Wedge Sales Call? It is easier

to get someone to deny things are perfect than it is to

get them to admit there is a problem. When you ask a PICTURE

PERFECT question, you are creating a conflict between

the prospect and your competition. You are showing

the prospect the gap between an example of ideal service

and his or her current service. And you are doing it in a

way that does not put your prospect on the spot. You are

leaving it to your prospect to make the comparison and see

the difference. You are not asking your prospect to admit

there is a problem. You are only asking him or her to react

by denying that things are as perfect as you portrayed.

Another salesperson might have said to your prospect,

“You are receiving [a specific service] so that you get [a benefit

removing your pain], right?” In that case, the other salesperson

would be putting your prospect on the spot to say,

“Well, no.” And the salesperson would have been directly

questioning the performance or the offering of the competition.

By putting the question instead in the PICTURE PERFECT

format, you eliminated both of these potential causes

of uneasiness. You avoided attacking your competition, and

you made it much easier for your prospect to face his or

her problem. All you did was present the ideal situation to

your prospect. He or she does not have to say to you, “I

have a problem.” Your prospect can merely point out that

the service he or she currently receives, or would receive

from your other competitors who have talked to the

prospect, does not meet the high standard you have cited.

That is one of the reasons you can beat traditional selling

using The Wedge.

When using PICTURE PERFECT, you can build the

momentum you need to eliminate your competition and

to get the current provider fired if there is one by using

the “shelf” technique. You ask one PICTURE PERFECT

question, let your prospect respond, and then reply, “May

we put that on the shelf for a moment?” This lets your

prospect know that you will deal with it shortly. Then you

ask another PICTURE PERFECT question, and do the same

thing. After you have, say, three or four PICTURE PERFECT

questions on the shelf, you have set the stage for a gestalt

moment in which your prospect will be thinking and feeling

something like, “Gee. I’ve got some things to deal with.”

So you take the issues off the shelf and move forward from there, with your prospect more emotionally committed

than he or she would have been if you were dealing

with only one issue.

Two Kinds of Preliminary Questions

In the real world, of course, you cannot walk into your

prospects’ offices and immediately start asking them PICTURE

PERFECT questions. It would be unnatural, and it

would be seen by your prospects as manipulative. So you

have to lay the groundwork with a few preliminary questions.

There are two ways you will be doing this.

First, you will go right after any active pain that your

prospect might have at the forefront of his or her mind by

asking “fishnet” questions. Fishnet questions are general

questions such as, “How’s business?” and “Any problems lately

that you’d like to discuss?” Sometimes, your prospect will bite

early. He or she will bring up a specific pain. When that

happens, you can use the Reactive Wedge, a question in response

to an active pain that your prospect has volunteered.

It is the reactive version of PICTURE PERFECT, and it

goes like this:

“I’m curious. When you tried to [remove the pain] by using

[a remedy or benefit], how did that go?”

In your reactive question, you have succeeded in focusing

your prospect on the gap between ideal PICTURE

PERFECT service and the service currently being provided.

Plus, you did not attack your competition. Your question

assumed that your competition could or would fix the problem, or already had fixed it if there were a provider already

handling the account.

Next, you will ask your prospect “qualifying” questions.

Qualifying questions help you determine whether

the conditions exist for you to ask a PICTURE PERFECT

question. A qualifying question might be, “Do you deal with

[broad subject area]?” or “Have you had any [events related

to broad subject area] lately?” If your prospect says yes,

then you can ask the PICTURE PERFECT question. You can

think of the PICTURE PERFECT question in this sense as a

Proactive Wedge. Unlike the Reactive Wedge, which is designed

to respond to a pain volunteered by the prospect

from his or her active memory, the Proactive Wedge is intended

to activate a latent pain and bring it into your

prospect’s active memory. A Proactive Wedge is a PICTURE

PERFECT question:

“I’m curious. When you receive [a specific service] so that

you don’t have to worry about [a specific pain], are you

comfortable with that process?”

When you are looking for pain, you are making an

educated guess based on your precall research about what

the prospect’s concerns are likely to be. The proactive

PICTURE PERFECT question is straightforward. As you talk

to your prospect, you can keep asking PICTURE PERFECT

questions. Some will miss, and some will hit. When they

miss, you can move on. When they hit, you have something

to work with.

Compared with traditional selling, The Wedge will

engage you in a more effective dialogue with your prospect that will give you a considerably greater chance to win the

account. You are helping your prospect discover pain that

he or she may have forgotten. You are initiating a process

to get your competition fired or dismissed from consideration

without saying anything bad about them.

Thinking Visually

The power of PICTURE PERFECT lies not in the idea of perfection

but in the picture of that perfection. Picture is the

key word. Your prospects must be able to visualize what

perfect service looks like. They must have a clear, specific

image in their minds. To give them this picture, you will

need to use concrete, specific words—staying low on the

ladder of abstraction. Always be asking yourself, “Is there a

way I can make this more concrete?”

The example of the ideal service, not the fact that

your service is ideal, is the most powerful way of differentiating

yourself from your competition. Remember, too,

what we said earlier: It is not just what you do but how you

do it. Explaining how you do things takes you down the

ladder of abstraction to the level of concrete detail where

you can differentiate yourself from the competition in a

way that has a much greater impact on your prospect.

Why? Because you are getting your prospect to think visually.

What they truly understand they can appreciate.

What Visuals Do You Use?

Think about the ways your company provides service—the

specific things you do on a day-to-day basis. How do you go about getting the job done? What are the tasks your

people complete, the actual way they do something as opposed

to merely what it is that they do? This is where you

will find the concrete differences that make you superior to

your competition.

To prepare yourself to win more new business rather

than settle for opportunities to present, one of the best investments

of your time that you can make is in talking to

people at your company about how they do their jobs. This

is where you will find the tangible, specific things that

make you better and different—the way a bank does a cash

flow analysis for a business, a helpful customer usage report

from a water company, a tax reduction checklist provided

by a CPA, an exposure analysis by an insurance

agency, a no-wait rental car service, and so on. These are

the kinds of things that will enable you to drive The

Wedge. As we discussed in Chapter 2, your business probably

has 12 to 18 specific examples of your service strengths

that can be matched up favorably against your competition’s

service weaknesses, and that can be presented as concrete,

visual examples.

Like most salespeople, you may be a little uncomfortable

with taking time off the circuit and working at your

office conferring with your own people. You would rather

be out there presenting to more prospects, driving that bus

with an explosive device that will detonate if you slow

down. Time is money, you remind yourself. For every moment

that you are not in front of a prospect, you might

have lost an opportunity. But stop and consider your role.

If all you do is go into sales calls without a particular strategy

for each individual prospect, you are no more useful

than an advertisement your company could place or a sales

brochure it could distribute. In fact, however, you are more

than a marketing tool—you are a sales person. Each sales

call is a unique encounter, not a one-size-fits-all opportunity.

The Wedge may require you to adjust your instincts.

But the payoff is worth it—fewer sales calls to win more

new business.

Unfortunately, many sales managers reinforce the

notion that time spent by sales representatives at the office

is not as productive as outside time. These managers

have not been trained to show their reps the value of interviewing

their colleagues, drilling down and coming up

with the gems that will help them win more accounts. As

we discuss in Part III of this book, the sales manager who

makes this gem-finding process an integral part of the

regular sales meeting can significantly boost the success

of the sales team.

Built-In Tension

PICTURE PERFECT also works because in every prospectprovider

relationship there are potential weak points for

you to identify and exploit. It is only natural that clients

want more, and providers want to keep their clients happy

while doing less. That is not to say that clients are greedy

and providers are lazy. It’s human nature.

If I’m your seller or provider, I want to do the least I

can to keep you happy. I do want to keep you happy, to

be sure, but I want to do it as efficiently as I can, so that I

can increase my income by having more time to handle

other accounts. If I’m your buyer, on the other hand, I

want the most I can get from you. I want you to make me

a priority customer. Your other accounts are not a concern

of mine.

This service-related tension gives salespeople an

opening to drive The Wedge between the prospect and the

provider by offering a PICTURE PERFECT example of an

ideal level of service as opposed to the necessary level of service

that the current provider is delivering.

Will PICTURE PERFECT Work Every Time?

As a reliable pain detector, the PICTURE PERFECT question

has an excellent track record. I cannot guarantee it

will work every time, but I can tell you it has a high

probability of success. Generally, there are five things

that you might encounter that could cause it not to work:

(1) you did not establish a rapport with your prospect at

the start of your sales call; (2) your precall strategic research

fell short and you did not find out that your competition

was already performing or offering the ideal

service you described; (3) you were too vague in the way

you put the PICTURE PERFECT question; (4) you did not

mention the pain to be avoided; or (5) what you brought

up was not relevant to your prospect.

With practice, you should get better and better at the

PICTURE PERFECT technique. Remember: The more specific

and concrete the example, the more powerful your PICTURE

PERFECT question will be. This can be a trying exercise, but I

can tell you from experience that it is where money is made.

The Conversation

As we go through the six steps of The Wedge Sales Call

from PICTURE PERFECT through REHEARSAL, I will be giving

you six simple conversational phrases that you can use

as you go from one step to the other. With a little practice,

you can internalize the Wedge technique without having to

stop and think about each step.

Here is the key phrase we have learned for the PICTURE


“I’m curious. When you receive [a specific service] so that

you don’t have to worry about [a specific pain], are you

comfortable with that process?”

Try it out. Think about examples that apply to your own

company. Repeat each one, using the sentence above to set it

up. The more you do it, the more natural it will become.

If you are a financial planner, for example, you

might say:

“I’m curious. When you see all your holdings listed on one

consolidated sheet—your mutual funds, 401(k), brokerage

account, checking account, real estate investments, life insurance,

your spouse’s IRA, and so on—so that you don’t have to

wonder what each one is doing to advance your overall allocation

strategy, are you comfortable with that process?”

Or if you are a banker you might say:

“I’m curious. When your banker came out six months after

your credit was renewed to do a business plan review, and he

got out your business plan to talk about your new locations,

products, employees, and cash flow needs so that you

could develop a plan to finance your growth and you

wouldn’t have to worry about getting stuck with a marginal

line of credit, were you comfortable with how he

did that?”

If you would like an example that applies specifically

to your type of business, you can visit my company’s web

site at www.thewedge.net and consult our list or request

additional information.

Step 2: Take Away

By creating a PICTURE PERFECT, you have helped your

prospect visualize an example of the ideal service that he

or she is not receiving. You have found the pain, and

prompted your prospect to bring that pain into his or her

active consciousness. The question now is the degree of

that pain. How much does it matter to your prospect? Is

it significant, or just a minor irritant that is not important

to him or her? Is it powerful enough to motivate

your prospect to make a change and hire you?

The technique for measuring your prospect’s pain

is the TAKE AWAY. A well-known selling tactic, the

TAKE AWAY is designed to see if your prospect cares

about something enough to object when it is taken

off the table. In your case, you will use the TAKE AWAY to

see if the PICTURE PERFECT matters enough to the

prospect that he or she will protest when you appear to be downplaying its importance. The key phrase for the

TAKE AWAY is this:

“Well, perhaps it’s not that important because [insert a

reason here].”

For example, suppose you are an IT salesperson offering

a company a systems management server. You know

from your precall research that your competition, whether

it is the current IT vendor or someone else seeking the account,

does not provide security capabilities as comprehensive

as yours. During your sales call, you ask a PICTURE

PERFECT question:

“I’m curious. When your server was set up to automatically

install patches, hot fixes, and other software updates

on all of your desktops so that you don’t have to worry

about viruses getting into your system and people using

outdated applications, were you comfortable with that


Your prospect then replies, “Well, we don’t quite do it

that way, but we know whenever we need to install something


A salesperson relying on traditional selling might at

this moment blurt out, “It’s not done for you automatically?”

Instead, you are going to calmly reply,

“Well, perhaps it’s not that important because your internal

IT person can always send an e-mail alerting everybody to

download and install the necessary update.”

By minimizing your prospect’s pain and taking away

the service and benefit he would have gotten from the PICTURE

PERFECT, you are inviting the prospect to speak up

before you move on. If the prospect agrees with you that it

is not that important, you might as well move on. On the

other hand, if the response is, “No. It does matter because . . . ,”

then you have confirmed that you have a specific pain that

you can use to keep driving The Wedge—and you have

done a favor for your prospect by making him see what he

will lose if he does not take action.

Notice, too, how the TAKE AWAY statement says, “Perhaps

it’s not that important,” rather than “Perhaps it’s not that

important to you.” By omitting two words—“to you”—you

avoid putting your prospect on the defensive.

If you do not have a plausible reason to suggest why it

is not a big deal, you can still use the TAKE AWAY by merely

saying, “Perhaps it’s not that important.” The principle is

the same.


The Wedge strategy is about helping your prospects discover

what they really want, as opposed to pushing them in

a predetermined direction. From your precall research and

your knowledge of the industry you service, you already

have an understanding of the kinds of issues likely to be of

concern to prospects. As you test your prospect’s pain by

creating various PICTURE PERFECT images, you can measure

each instance of pain by using the TAKE AWAY. The

TAKE AWAY itself is a simple procedure. You state the cost of

inaction, and then you dismiss it.

Using a traditional sales approach, you might upon

discovering your prospect’s pain try to hammer the point

home. You might say, “No worry there. We make it a point to

provide [the specific service]. If you were our client, this would

never happen. Would you like to get started with us?”

Feeling pressure, your prospect might well respond, “I

appreciate what you’re saying. It’s a concern for us, but let me

think about it some more.” Psychologically, you have caused

your prospect to take a step back.

The Wedge approach, on the other hand, leaves it to

the prospect to tell you how important the issue is. Using

the TAKE AWAY, you say to the prospect, “Perhaps it’s not that

important because [insert a reason].”

If it does matter to your prospect, he will object to

your TAKE AWAY. In this case, your prospect is asserting his

need rather than having you define what that need is. You

have allowed your prospect to stay in control of the situation

and, indeed, you have encouraged him to begin telling

you what he would like. Rather than pushing your prospect

away, you have used the TAKE AWAY to prompt him to push

back—but to push back in your favor.

Wanting What’s Not Yours,

Not Wanting What Is

The TAKE AWAY works because of a phenomenon in negotiations

pointed out by author and lecturer Robert J. Ringer.

According to Ringer, negotiations are like the “dating

game.” Each party wants what he or she cannot have, and

does not want what he or she can have. It is similar to a boy

or girl in high school who plays hard to get. The boy/girl theory helps explain the power of the TAKE AWAY. Suddenly,

the prospect might lose the PICTURE PERFECT benefit

after all, so he or she speaks up lest it get away.

The Attitude of the TAKE AWAY

As simple as it appears to be, the TAKE AWAY is difficult for

many salespeople to master. In my years of sales training, I

have seen otherwise skilled professionals struggle with how

to do it naturally and smoothly. The major reason for this

is that when you do a TAKE AWAY you are being unnatural,

saying the opposite of what you mean. You are stating the

reverse of what you truly would like to say. You are calmly

suggesting to your prospect, “Perhaps it’s not that important

because . . . ,” but you are screaming inside, “Are you nuts?

You have to deal with this!”

Again, your strategy is to let your prospect feel comfortably

in control of the conversation. If you were to

hammer home the benefit of the PICTURE PERFECT example

and simply try to get your prospect to agree with you,

you would be selling and your prospect would start to

back off. Instead, you are letting your prospect think

about the benefit on his or her own, and come to a conclusion

without pressure.

Because the TAKE AWAY sends an incongruous, contradictory

message, you will get your prospect’s attention

when you use it. During the moment that he or she looks

at you a little quizzically, one of two things will happen.

Either your prospect will be thinking, “Wait. I do need

this.” Or else he or she will be thinking, “Maybe it isn’t

that important.”

Your attitude as you do the TAKE AWAY can have a major

effect on how well you execute it. I tell most of my

clients to go into the TAKE AWAY step thinking of this statement

that I once heard: “I am independently wealthy. I

don’t need the money because the degree to which I need

your money is the degree that I’m subject to your manipulation.”

This frame of mind should enable you to appear as

cool as a cucumber while you oddly downplay what you

just brought up a moment before as important.

The attitude of the TAKE AWAY is a good attitude for

selling in general, for strengthening your ability to help

your prospects discover and meet their true needs instead

of letting them kick you around and get you off track.

Would Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Ross Perot, or Donald

Trump put up with the stuff that most salespeople tolerate?

Of course not. And neither should you. If you’re going to

truly help your prospects, you need to be strong and confident

and resist any attempt they make to play games and

manipulate you.

Your Professional Responsibility

By using the TAKE AWAY, you help your prospects make the

right decision for themselves. That brings us to another

reason that some salespeople have trouble doing the TAKE

AWAY. They do not want the added responsibility of going

the extra mile to make a real difference in people’s lives.

They would rather focus their sales call on getting from

point A to point B with some positive outcome, whether or

not it addresses the prospect’s most important needs.

For salespeople who claim to believe in the services

and products they sell and the companies they represent,

The Wedge puts their claim to the test. If what you are

telling your prospects is true, then you have a duty to help

them discover how they can benefit from what you offer,

and why they should act now, in their own interest, to take

advantage of it. By failing to win the business, you are not

only letting yourself and your company down; you are letting

your prospect down. A number of salespeople I have

worked with have come to that realization. Many of them

have told me, “If I see real problems facing my prospect,

and if I can’t find a way to get the prospect to see that, then

it’s my fault.”

I know this firsthand. My late father worked hard, as

did my mother, in raising my brothers and me near Lubbock,

Texas. My dad knew that if he ever perished, God

forbid, Social Security would not be enough for my mother

to live on. He bought only a small life insurance policy,

though, in order to save on the monthly premiums. As a

result, my mother was not adequately provided for when

my father passed away. How great it would have been if a

good life insurance agent had cared enough to sell my father

what my parents really needed. This is a good lesson

for all of us as salespeople. If we can’t get our prospects to

understand and see what they really need, and motivate

them to act, then we have let them down.

The Conversation

Let us review where we are in The Wedge Sales Call. You

established a rapport with your prospect. You then began asking the right questions to find your prospect’s pain.

That set up The Wedge, and here are the two key phrases

you used to move into each step:

PICTURE PERFECT: “I’m curious. When you receive [a specific

service] so that you don’t have to worry about [a

specific pain], are you comfortable with that process?”

TAKE AWAY: “Well, perhaps it’s not that important because

[insert a reason].”

By using examples of PICTURE PERFECT to get your

prospects to focus on their pain, and by employing the

TAKE AWAY to determine whether each pain is important

enough to your prospects to motivate them to consider

hiring you and firing the current provider or ruling out

your other competitors, you have finished the Problem

Phase. Next, I show you how to help your prospect come

up with the solution that he or she truly wants in order to

remedy the pain that you have activated.