Eliminating Buyer Resistance Part 4: Inertia

This is the fourth post in the series on buyer resistance. This will cover the third type of resistance called Inertia1. The initial post, The 3 Types of Psychological Resistance Buyers Experience That Kill Your Sales, is an overview of the 3 types of resistance in this series. It summarizes what’s behind each type of resistance.

What Is Inertia?

“Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion.” – from Wikipedia

Resistance Triangle - Reactance, Skepticism, InertiaInertia is your most challenging form of resistance. It isn’t about you, your offer, or the sales process.

Inertia is rooted in your buyer and stems from his life experience.

It can be his past failures and disappointments replaying over and over in his mind. It can be his belief he already owns/knows what you’re selling. Either way, this stops him from considering any decision.

Inertia sometimes appears before you have a chance to present your benefits. And, if he won’t consider your offer, it doesn’t matter what benefits you present.

Other times, he reads your sales letter or listens to your offer yet he won’t commit. Something from the past keeps him from moving forward.

Here are the 6 ways to bring your buyer out of this inertia and pull them back into your product.

1. Disrupt and Reframe Resistance

You’re in a trance…most of the day. Almost every moment of every day you’re in some form of trance. You’re unconscious automatically runs the show. Your conscious mind is distracted with little things and your unconscious keeps you alive, safe, and functioning.

Your customer is in a trance too. His unconscious is working hard to keep him protected and safe. It runs the same routines day in and day out. This trance is behind the resistance called inertia.

Snap your buyer out of his trance.

As they say in traditional sales and marketing, “You have to get the customer’s attention.” This will help you do that and make more sales in the process.

In research2, students went door-to-door selling note cards for charity. In the some households they said a packet of 8 cards was “three dollars; it’s a bargain!” This approach sold 35% of the households. Some households were told they’re, “300 pennies; it’s a bargain!” This disruption, the change from “three dollars” to “300 pennies” almost doubled sales to 65%.

They also tried other versions of the phrase with “it’s a bargain at 300 pennies” and simply “they’re 300 pennies.” These sold in the 30% to 35% range, the same as the control phrase “three dollars; it’s a bargain!”

When the students disrupted the customer’s thought with “300 pennies,” it allowed the sales message “it’s a bargain!” to bypass the resistance. It creates a brief state of confusion allowing the message to be accepted. (If you’re familiar with Milton Erickson and his use of confusion in hypnosis then this will sound familiar. If not, that’s okay too.)

In a similar study1, college students sold cupcakes at the school for 50 cents. Randomly they said, “I’m selling this half-cake for 50 cents, it’s delicious!” or “I’m selling this cupcake for 50 cents, it’s delicious!” The percentage in sales results were the same as in the 300 pennies research with half-cake outselling by almost double. Because “half-cake” is not a common way to say cupcake it interrupts thought and allows the message “it’s delicious” to slide by the inertia.

How Much Fun Will You Have With This Technique?

My bride always laughs at me when I do this but I love it. Plus, it’s a great way for you to practice watching interrupts work.

Wherever we go, almost always I ask whoever is helping us, “How much fun are you having today?” instead of “How are you?” I’ve asked this question to thousands of people for over 10 years. I love how it opens people up.

It’s an obvious interruption. When was the last time anyone asked you that question? You usually hear a routine “How are you?” and reply with a mindless, “not bad and you?” Neither of you in the conversation, if you want to call it a conversation, will remember the interaction.

The elegance of the question, “How much fun are you having today?” assumes you’re already having some fun today and asks you to recognize how much of it you’ve actually experienced.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a panacea to make people excited about life. Most people often reply, “none, I’m at work.” But they’ll smile or chuckle when they say it.

After their reply, I’ve altered their perception. If they said “none,” I can now say something as simple as, “That’s too bad. I promise you’ll start having fun now that I’ve been here.” (with a grin) They may give a goofy reply. It doesn’t matter. I get to practice working with resistance and I get to make someone’s day a little better. And, I have a little fun myself.

I started asking this because I noticed most people don’t recognize the fun in life. It only takes a little attention to enjoy things more.

Give this a try the next time you’re at a grocery store, restaurant, bank, wherever. Ask the checkout clerk or the waitress, “How much fun are you having today?” (Emphasize “you” in the question and remember the word “today” to give them a time frame to process the question. Also, make it sound playful.) Notice how they react.

Let me know in the comments below, or through the contact page, what you experience. If you run across any challenging replies I’d love to help you out.

How To Use Disrupt And Reframe In Writing

The first step in copywriting is to get attention. This is why your headline is so critical. You want to grab your reader by the eyeballs and make him want to keep reading.

Here are a couple of classic headlines that use a Disrupt and Reframe technique as an example:

“Amazing Secret Discovered By One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards To Your Drives, Eliminates Hooks And Slices…And Can Slash Up To 10 Strokes From Your Game Almost Overnight!” – John Carlton

How I Made A Fortune With A “Fool” Idea

At 60 Miles Per Hour The Loudest Noise In This New Rolls Royce Comes From The Electric Clock – David Ogilvy

Notice how these headlines take a basic idea and make you think, “How?”

How could a one-legged golfer help me improve my golf game? How can a foolish idea make someone a fortune? How can an electric clock be the loudest thing in a car at 60 miles per hour?

What these examples do is create a slight state of confusion in your mind, which briefly jolts you out of your trance. Then, while you’re in this brief state of confusion, you pay attention and the suggestion (your product or service benefit) is allowed to drop in and arouse curiosity.

It’s that simple.

2. Boost Your Customer’s Confidence

Obviously, you’re an intelligent person or you wouldn’t be reading these posts. Most people give up and let life take them from one situation to the next. They never fully consider the ways you can influence the outcome. You should be proud of yourself for realizing you have control over many areas of your life. And, you should be proud you’re making these moments even better.

How do you feel about that?

I am sincere when I wrote it. I deeply believe you’re an intelligent person. Anyone searching to improve their life and learn more about how people behave is intelligent. You should be proud of yourself, if you weren’t.

If you felt a little proud, were you feeling pride before you read this?

In reality, we all have fears and our failures haunting us from the past. They lay there in your unconscious and get triggered to keep you from making the same mistakes again.

Do you remember that time a teacher said you probably won’t amount to much? Or, maybe a parent said you were destined to achieve great things and you don’t feel like you’ve done that yet? Maybe you wanted to start a business and haven’t or you’ve failed? Maybe you didn’t get that job or promotion you wanted because you screwed up? Maybe you bought something that didn’t live up to its hype?

I’m sure you can find all the areas you’ve failed in the past (if you want to feel bad for a while).

However, I don’t want you to feel bad. We all have this baggage. It’s part of life and part of learning. (Put any negative feelings aside now and feel proud again Smile)

Your customer is not looking back at his past failures as examples where he can change and grow. Instead he has a feeling sitting in the pit of his stomach. It’s a pain that grows whenever someone reminds him of taking a step forward.

This is inertia. It’s a protective reaction everyone has and you have to build confidence in your customer so they’ll feel strong enough to buy.

The goal is to give the customer a sense of pride, confidence, and success for their past.

Have you ever been around someone that always makes you feel better than you think you are? When you start talking about your inabilities they have a magical power that transforms everything about you. There aren’t a lot of people out there like this so when you’ve met someone like that, you remember.

In essence, that’s what this is like. You want to be able to give your customer the confidence they need to use what you’re selling. You don’t need to lie to him. There’s success in everyone. You have to be able to pull it out.

When I would discuss retirement planning with customers I had to show the amount needed at retirement so they could live comfortably. It’s always a large sum and will overwhelm anyone who isn’t already financially set. One way we could ease the fears is to show the success they’ve had at managing their finances up to today. It could be as simple as pointing out they’ve saved $500 over the last year (a big feat for many of people). After building on the small successes we can start moving to the next decisions.

In a sales letter it’s a little different. You don’t know each person’s challenge and success. You have to make assumptions.

If you’re selling to beginners make sure it’s easy enough for a beginner to use. Demonstrate the simplicity and compare it to things they’ve most likely accomplished without frustration.

If you’re selling to an advanced market you want to give examples an experienced user would relate with and has completed successfully. With an advanced market it’s okay to explain your product isn’t for beginners. By excluding beginners you’re giving those past the beginner stage a bit of pride; they’re part of a special group. They’ve passed the ‘beginner’ stage and qualify for this next step.

Hopefully, when you read the beginning of this section you felt a little better about yourself. I complimented you as an intelligent person and told you how you were better than the average person. This too is an example of building confidence.

Now, as you continue feeling better about yourself, continue reading through then next few examples. It’s okay to stop occasionally and reflect on how this will help you. That’s what intelligent people do anyhow.

3. Wear Them Down

Constant repetition. E-mail follow up. Repeat mailings. Eventually their curiosity will build up to inquire.

In traditional face-to-face sales, I don’t encourage using this technique. Your customer will feel like you’ve mentally beat him up until he buys. If you’ve ever bought a car through a dealership you can probably relate to this technique. They wear you out with constant trips to the manager. The need to see if management can meet your price, get approval for financing, check if the car you want is actually on the lot, etc. It’s not a pleasant experience. Don’t do this to your customers unless you want them to feel bad later.

In marketing, this technique is a bit different. When you have someone on your email or mailing list, repetition increases the chance your customer will buy.

Online, you can email your offer in various ways every day. Naturally, you want to make sure you’re providing value beyond just a sales pitch. If you fail to give any value, you’ll only end up with a high unsubscribe rate (or worse, marked as spam).

However, email marketing is practically free for you to increase the mental impressions you make. This repetition increases curiosity and desire. Have you ever received multiple emails and eventually clicked back to the site to read more about the product? That’s this process at work.

It’s similar in direct mail. A few years ago, in my old insurance agency, we rolled over $1.6 million into retirement accounts directly from our monthly newsletter in 12 months. We never directly mentioned investments but routinely discussed taxes, retirement planning, and IRAs. After a few months we started receiving calls from people wondering what to do with their old 401k or IRA. These turned into appointments and into a dozen sales. The repetition in the newsletter did the selling and generated the interest.

Marketing caveat: If someone asks you to take them off your list remove them immediately. Your email system should include a 1-click unsubscribe option to comply with spam laws (in the USA).

With that said, as long as someone is willing to read your offer you have the ability to influence him and can take advantage of it.

4. Offer A Choice

Imagine you made a search on Google and clicked a link to arrive at a website. On the website there was a brief description about what you want. Then it reads “to better help you please choose one of two options, “Are you a male?” and “Are you female?” What would you do?

When you arrive at a website you’re searching for something specific. As good as Google is at finding the right website, you’re never sure if you’ll get what you expect. When you’re presented with an option like this, you’re more likely to click an option…and actually read the page after you click.

With inertia, you’re stuck. You’re not moving in any direction. One of the ways to get you engaged and moving (in any direction) is to give you a choice. It gets you focused on answering the question and moving out of the stuck state.

One place I’ve fallen for this is on a sales letter for a product I don’t want to buy. It’s usually a product where I already own something similar. However, I read the sales letter anyhow because I’m I’m curious what they’re offering. When I get to the “Buy Now” button there are a couple of payment options. I can pay in full for $100. I can pay with two payments for $50 or with 3 payments of $35 each (these are examples, obviously).

When this happens, I start thinking to myself, “well, I can make three $35 payments easily without it pissing anyone off at home (my bride)…” This decision took me from my stoic position (“I already own this”) to choosing which payment option is best for my situation today (“I can afford to get this too now”). I’m sucked back into the buying process.

Once you’ve made a choice, you’re engaged again. If you remember Newton’s Laws of Motion, an object in motion (or rest) remains in motion (at rest) unless acted on by an outside force. You’re job is to give a choice to take them from their resting position and get them moving in your direction.

In the example where you choose “male” or “female” on a website, you’re getting your customer to make small commitments. Once he makes the initial decision, he’s more likely to read the page. One commitment leads to another.

Start with small decisions to get him started moving, then increase the involvement. The point is simply to get him into the process so he begins moving.

Now, when you’re done reading this, are you going to sign up to get this entire series on resistance as an EBook with all the additional worksheets? Or, will you read the other sections before you sign up?

5. Minimize The Request

You want to make sure your customer can easily accomplish what ever it is your offering. Making the request seem small makes it easy for your buyer to take those first steps. This works really well when you also Boost Your Customer’s Confidence.

Minimizing the request was explained in detail in part 2 on dealing with Reactance. Go read that article for specific examples on How To Minimize A Request.

6. Acknowledge Inertia

This was also discussed in part 2 on dealing with Reactance. I know you may not want to click the link and read that article after you finish this one, but reading the examples there will give you very unique understanding of the lessons.

Yes! I just used the technique, Acknowledge Inertia, in that paragraph. By writing, “I know you may not want to…” I’ve acknowledged the resistance you may have had. Again, Inertia is something from your buyer’s history that stops them. When you acknowledge it, it’s like loosening the lid on a jar. The jar is still not open but, now that it’s loose, it’s a lot easier to remove the lid and open it completely.

Now, after you finish this post, go read part 2 in the series.

What’s Next?

This is the last in the series on the 3 Types of Psychological Resistance and how to overcome them.

Sign up below to receive the eBook on Resistance for free. It will be packed with more details and examples on overcoming each type of resistance. There will also be worksheets and other material to help you work through every situation.

You’ve made it through this post so you obviously understand the importance resistance plays when you want to get people to do what you want. You’ll love how the worksheets bring all this together into easy to use format.

Subscribe below and get the free eBook when it’s finished.

If you missed the first 3 posts in the series you can find them here:

1 From the book Resistance and Persuasion by Dr. Eric Knowles.
2 Davis, B., & Knowles, E. S. (1999). A Disrupt-Then-Reframe Technique of Social Influence. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 76(2), 192-199.

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Comments & Discussion

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  1. says

    Dude, this was awesome! One heck of a post. There’s a lot of things to comment on, but one quick thing I can verify… having the person click “men” or “women” before moving on does increase conversions considerably in my tests!

    • says

      Hi Dean! Thanks for the ego boost.

      For your comment on the men vs women, anything that gets the customer making decisions and actively involved is going to move them along. We used to do that with the direct mail envelopes inside envelopes. You think it would reduce conversion but once they open the second envelope they’re committed to find out what’s going on inside.

      Hope all is well with you in the beautiful Northwest.