I hate fear-based selling. You know, the kind where the seller lets you know one way or another that if you don’t buy their product or service you’re going to lose out. Fear-based selling gives me a horrible, irrational feeling that puts up my guard and reduces my trust level with the seller.
I started my career in sales in the ERP software industry and went through some sales training – Xerox’ Personal Selling System and Solution Selling. The approach I learned was a consultative sell where we focused on knowing the customer, probing for pain points and then providing solutions to those pain points. Emotion was involved, but we didn’t invoke fear. We provided hope when we solved our customers’ pain.
Today I like the concept of treating my prospective clients as I would my friends, as described by Charles H. Green of Trusted Advisor Associates and co-author of The Trusted Advisor. (I wrote about the book in my previous post, Trust, Get It, Measure It, Grow it Online or Offline.) In his article Friends, Motives and Profits: Avoid Fear-based Selling, Green writes that if you would listen closely to your friend’s needs, charge them a fair price, and recommend a competitor if the competitor could better serve their needs, why wouldn’t you treat a prospective customer the same way?
As I researched the topic of fear-based selling, I stumbled upon a Havard Business Review article, In a Downturn, Provoke Your Customers by Philip Lay, Todd Hewlin, and Geoffrey Moore. The authors recommend another sales approach: in a downturn. create urgency by explaining to prospective customers how doing nothing costs them money, resource and time, and how the seller’s solution can save them money, increase productivity, etc. By shedding new light on the buyer’s situation, a seller can position their product or service as a solution to a pain the prospect may not have realized, articulated or felt was urgent.
I like the idea of provoking customers if I as the seller have knowledge about reducing risk, costs, or effort that my prospects don’t have. I don’t like the idea of provoking customers if a seller is trying to create risk or exaggerate costs and resource requirements to provoke a sale. I’ll think about provoking my customers, but for the most part I’ll stick with approaching prospects as I would my friends.
What do you think? Provoke them? Treat them as friends? Or scare the heck out of them?