De-Risk Yourself (Or Struggle With Every Sale!)

We’re always being told to sell the benefits, but what about the risks?

Every purchasing decision contains some element of risk, some degree of uncertainty. Some of this uncertainty is founded in fact, and some in misunderstanding, preconception or prejudice.

And whoever you are, your customers will, consciously or subconsciously, be going through a process of weighing up the risks of dealing with you, over your competitors.

These risks can materialise in a number of ways, from over-promises on pricing, quality and timing, under-performance and lack of quality or suitability, through to collateral damage and the impact across the wider business of being held back by an inappropriate or dysfunctional solution. 

The impact of these factors will vary depending on whether we’re talking about a new paperclips supplier, or building a bespoke new sales management system. (However, they still apply – get enough of the paperclips decisions wrong and the cumulative impact will be no less damaging than one of the big decisions!).

And the measure of the potential loss for the customer, will invariably go way beyond the price tag of the transaction. The total cost (or risk) includes the time spent investigating and developing relationships with suppliers, evaluating solutions, working on specifications, plus the internal and sometimes external fallout of having made a decision and taken the business down a path that has turned out to be a dead end.

So, when you’re in the role of seller, be mindful that a key part of your job is to implicitly and explicitly neutralise (or at least reduce) this uncertainty. 

Make your client’s purchasing decision as risk-free as possible by…

Backing up your talk with:

  • Client references and testimonials,
  • Case studies showing how your product has helped others (their problem, what you did, what was the outcome?),
  • Guarantees and warranties,
  • Credentials, qualifications, certifications,
  • Membership of professional bodies, accreditations, and industry standards.

These ‘credibility points’ are important, but they are merely hygiene factors. You should have them, but you would never found your client proposition on how good a complaints policy you can offer!

Creating a risk-reducing buying experience with:

  • Tasters and test drives,
  • Product samples and trials,
  • Mock-ups, models, simulations – Anything that can create the experience and help the customer visualise what life would be like with your product.

Note that tasters and trials don’t necessarily need to be free. Their role is to enable prospective customers to experience the product without having to make a substantial commitment based on incomplete information. This is why kitchen outfitters have big showrooms, why online services offer time-limited discounts and trials, why you can buy perfume in tiny bottles, and why Skoda offer such huge discounts to taxi drivers (think about it – every new fare means a new person experiencing the inside of a Skoda!)

Don’t give airtime to fears and preconceptions (especially if they’re yours!):
Careful that your well-rehearsed sales patter is not inadvertently promoting the very things you don’t want your clients to be thinking about…

  • Don’t introduce yourself by explaining how you’re not like the typical stereotype of your profession, or referring to your more well-known competitor, and then going on to say why you’re different.
  • Of course it makes sense to be up front and tackle any elephants in the room, you just don’t need to create any new elephants that your clients hadn’t even realised were there!

If you really are breaking the mould of your profession, or making a name for yourself as an alternative to the more well-known brands, then this will quickly become self-evident.

Finally (in fact, initially), create an enquiry and buying experience that is oriented around the customer, not you. This means:

  • Listen to your customer’s needs, and concerns,
  • Be knowledgeable, and confident about what you do and what you’re selling,
  • Have examples mentally to hand where real customers in similar circumstances have benefited from your solutions,
  • Don’t try to rush or force a decision (or use time-limited gimmicks). If you’re product is worth investing in, it will still be so tomorrow.

This customer empathy and customer-oriented buying experience, above all else, will create the right environment to grow trust and relationships. Done well, this trust will extend beyond the immediate transaction and into long-term customer relationships and advocacy – and after all, this is your your ultimate goal isn’t it?

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