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Greg Nanigian and Associates, Inc. | Braintree, MA,

Uncovering a prospect’s pain is essential to a successful sales process. I’ve been training that fact for years. Why? Because people buy emotionally, so if you can unleash your prospect's emotion, you have a much better chance for success. But how do you do that? How do you uncover a prospect's pain or deep seated emotions without being obvious about it?

The first step in the Sandler System is to establish bonding and rapport with your prospects and customers. However, this step really extends across the entire Sandler process, since you want to maintain a good relationship through out the sales cycle. By establishing a strong relationship, you gain trust, and then find a way to get the prospect to let you into their world and share major issues with you. One of the best tools we use in the Sandler system is DISC, which helps you identify the type of person you are dealing with and how best to approach them.

DISC is an acronym for the psychological model:  Dominants, Influencers, Steady-Relator, and Compliants.  When you become proficient with the DISC model, you can see people’s communication and behavioral traits, and then categorize them as one or parts of each person type. Although most people have a bit of each of these traits, we usually lean more heavily to only one of the traits.

The trick to using DISC effectively, is to identify the prevailing trait in your prospect’s communication and behavior, then to mirror those traits yourself. If you do this effectively, the prospect won’t know you are using DISC, and will be comfortable with your style, since it matches their own. This approach will help you establish bonding and rapport, and quickly gain their trust.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the four DISC traits.


Dominant style individuals will be direct and candid, and, in extreme situations, may even be perceived as being terse, uncaring, or cold. They are risk takers and problem solvers who tend to have high levels of personal confidence. Certainly, when they’re not self-aware and are low in the other three personality styles (which we’ll get to in a moment), these prospects tend to want a win-lose outcome in the negotiation.

Translation:  They want the salesperson to lose and they want to win. You can usually identify Dominant prospects when their primary emotional response is anger.  Another common identifier is that they always seem to be in a hurry.  In dealing with high Dominant prospects, you need to be concise and direct.  If they feel like you’re “sales technique-ing” them, they will become uncomfortable to the point of anger and may want to end the meeting.

Sensing sales techniques in the air could also make them even more predatory in their negotiations.  Build rapport with Dominant buyers by demonstrating efficiency. Let them feel they are in control while you subtly navigate the conversation to the topic that really matters to them: their pain.


Influencers are talkative, energized by social interaction, colorful, and fun. Where Dominants may find a sense of humor to be a waste of time, high Influencers, want to enjoy the experience of buying from you. Therefore, an appropriate series of jokes or social settings (such as having your meeting over lunch) is something that resonates with high Influencers. They want and need this social interaction and it helps them bond.

Allow more time with Influencers in your sales efforts than you would with Dominants. Let Influencers enjoy the experience and fully communicate with you.  This makes them feel more comfortable. You can recognize Influencers by their optimism and affability.


The third behavioral type is the Steady-Relator. Steady-Relators are loyal and yearn to build relationships based on trust. Before they’ll do business, they want to trust the sales- person. Compared to the Dominant and Influencers, the Steady Relators have introverted personalities.  If Steady-Relators don’t feel like they can trust you, it’s not likely they will do business with you unless of-course, they have no other choice. When dealing with these prospects, take the time to get to know them, their goals, and their pains. Let them get to know you, too, but don’t share any of your pain (this goes for all sales situations - your pain is irrelevant).

The emotional signature of this group is no emotion at all.  Although Steady-Relators obviously have and feel emotions, they rarely show them, keeping a poker face throughout. But, you can build trust with them using the DISC model. You can often identify Steady-Relators by their homey desk. They might put pictures or even stuffed animals in their workstation to feel comfortable, cozy, and at home.


Finally, in the DISC model, you have Compliants. These individuals do their research. They gather reams of information before they make any decision.  All too frequently in a selling situation, everything boils down to price with the Compliant. Many salespeople find dealing with them to be the most difficult challenge because most salespeople are Dominants or Influencers, or some combination of the two, and they just don’t understand what makes Compliants tick.

Compliants tend to appear very logical, but behind it all, fear is the emotion ruling their decision making. Like Steady-Relators, these folks are introverted. They often take the longest to make decisions compared to the other three behavioral styles. 

When dealing with Compliants, be patient. If you normally close deals in one call, it makes a lot of sense to plan on dividing your approach into a two-call sale for these prospects. In the first call, uncover pain as best as you can, but leave something behind for them to research. Don’t give Compliants a proposal right off the bat. Instead, leave them somewhat curious and hand over a research report to review.  That’s how they operate. They want information to take home for review in order to make a decision.  On the second sales call, come back with your recommendations and proposed agreement.    This will give you a better chance of closing the deal with a Compliant.


Want to learn more about DISC and/or the Sandler Sales System? Check out our upcoming workshops and sign-up for one at no cost to you. Here's a link to our Eventbrite page, where you can find a workshop on a date and at a location convenient for you.. Be sure to use the Promotional Code: 10Greg to attend free of charge.

GNA Workshops on Eventbrite

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