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3 Ways to Bust Through Your Customer's Stress and Fear

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It’s a story that's played out over and over again. You know your product provides the right solution for a certain customer. But for whatever reason, you cannot get that person to pull the trigger. 

And as perfect and appealing as the solution may appear, this customer will not get off the fence. Instead the customer says, “I just can’t decide.” Or “We want to think about it.” Or even “I’ll know it when I see it.”

At times, it seems as if invisible barriers were preventing customers from moving forward. What are those barriers? What holds people back from a decision when there's a clear solution?

Stress stunts decision making.

Purchase decisions create stress because the fear of making a bad decision looms large.

Purchasing may seem like a logical endeavor, but in order to purchase someone must create a decision. But stress constricts creativity.

So, just when creative thought is particularly necessary, the stress of purchasing makes it hard for customers to think creatively and reach a conclusive decision.

Everyone has a finite capacity for stress. When stress levels become unbearable, the mind wanders back to the most comfortable place, which is the place of deciding nothing.

Related: 5 Ways to Close The Sale With Indecisive Customers

How can doing nothing be wrong if it feels right?

Psychologists refer to this as a “status quo bias,” a form of inertia based on loss aversion. In other words, people feel a strong bias toward doing nothing or maintaining their current or previous decisions.

People feel safety in the circumstances they know, even if they do not like them. They sense danger in what they do not know.

Guess which option many people choose most of the time when faced with perceived safety vs. perceived danger? It's not a hard choice.

I believe that customers follow a similar pattern when making purchase decisions according to the following formula:

Current dissatisfaction + Future promise > Cost + Fear.

What's binding people to the status quo is fear that their life will not improve or that it will perhaps become even worse as a result of a purchase decision.

So how does a seller get customers unstuck? Here are some steps to take:

Related: Finding Clients Who Are Open to Innovation Even in Risk-Averse Markets

1. Make the status quo unpalatable.

Guide your customers to take a mental journey of what their life would be like without moving forward.

Remember that these potential customers initially gravitated toward becoming your clients because something was wrong in their life (or business). They would not be with you if everything were fine in their world, right?

Revisit the fundamental "wrongness" of their current situation and go on from there. Ask your customers to describe their circumstances, playing out the inevitable outcomes if they make no change. This process will demonstrate to them that their currently undesirable situation will eventually degrade into horrible and unlivable conditions.

Related: 4 Customer Personalities Your Sales Team Wants to Reach

2. Provide clarity on the improved future state.

Clarity for a buyer comes through the creation of mental pictures. Therefore, selling your solution with adjectives alone is inadequate.

“Great,” “awesome,” and “outstanding” sound like good words but don't provide enough of the memory hook that your customer needs.

Encourage customers to imagine and then describe specific scenes of an improved future upon their having the chance to enjoy your solution. The process of picturing and verbalizing an improved lifestyle by invoking very specific imagery will perhaps provide them with the clarity they need about the future.

Related: Magic and the CEO -- Applying Lessons Learned From the Stage

3. Show safety in the decision.

Finally, minimize your customers' fears by helping them put to rest their imaginary worst-case scenarios.

I believe the biggest fears that your customers tend to worry about rarely come true.

Ask your customers to describe realistic, probable outcomes, not the worst-case scenarios. The odds of success are high for your customers and they need to know that.

Finally, understand that your customers need you or they wouldn't be there in the first place. 

Your customers fight an uphill battle against their own stress-addled, status-quo-leaning brains every day. They felt dissatisfied enough to do the research to find you and your solution. You must lead them through their mental fog toward making the decision that is clearly so right for them.

Help your customers arrive at where they undoubtedly want to go, and you'll change their world.

Related: Sleepwalking Through Sales -- How Vendors Are Ignoring Buyers' Intelligence

Jeff Shore

Written By

Jeff Shore, of Shore Consulting, is a sought-after sales expert, speaker, author and consultant whose latest book, Be Bold and Win the Sale: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Boost Your Performance, was published by McGraw-Hill Professional in January 2014.