Eliminating Buyer Resistance Part 3: Skepticism

This is the third post in the series on buyer resistance. This will cover the second type of resistance called Skepticism1. 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 Skepticism?

Skepticism is the type of resistance you’re probably most familiar with. It’s what most training in marketing or sales teaches you to deal with. Many of the techniques below may seem familiar. With that said, understand these work best with a unique type of resistance. You need to understand where your customer is coming from to make sure you hit all areas that work best with him.

Skepticism is resistance against the offer. It has to do with the features and benefits of what you’re selling. Will they work for your customer?

If you’re selling in person you may have a customer with multiple questions or arguments about why your product won’t work. You’ve probably discovered how arguing back doesn’t resolve anything. If you have a skeptical customer, use these six methods to eliminate his Skepticism.

1. Offer Guarantees

You’ve seen guarantees before. They come in various shapes and sizes. There are 30 day, 90 day, 1 year, and lifetime money back guarantees. You can have a low price guarantee like Best Buy where you beat competitors advertised prices by 10%.

Guarantees are the easiest and fastest way to eliminate Skepticism. If you’re not offering a guarantee, I can guarantee (yes, I know) you are losing money. Consumers want some sort of security behind their purchase. Nothing seems to be stable anymore. Your customer wants a business he can trust and will stand behind its product or service.

A guarantee is even more important for your smaller, less know businesses. Everyone knows Wal-Mart will allow you to return your purchase. And, there’s a certain quality expected when purchasing a known brand like Starbucks. If you’re new to a market put up a big sign so EVERY customer knows you stand behind your products.

Hyundai made a huge impact in the auto market because of their 10 years or 100,000 mile warranty. No other car in that price range, or other price range at the time, offered a warranty like that. Why did this work? Hyundai eliminated doubt about the quality of their cars. Their cars were reasonably priced and allowed you to concentrate on the benefits of the Hyundai line without the nagging worry of future repairs.

What if you sell online? I think it’s even more important to make your guarantee easily visible. You have no credibility, no history, and no store for an angry customer to burn down if they lose control. It’s critical for you to give a strong guarantee. You also want to make it known you can be easily contacted in case they want to use your guarantee.

What type of guarantee can you give?

That depends on the type of business you have. The most obvious is the “Money back” guarantee. You could use a 30, 60, or 90 day money back guarantees. But, if you’re bold, I recommend you test a one year, or lifetime money back guarantee. You may be surprised to find your return rate going up very little while your conversion rates increase significantly.

In my insurance agency we couldn’t give a money back guarantee. Instead, we created a 4 Point Guarantee and gave to each prospective customer. It read:

  1. Money Back Guarantee – They can refund any unearned premium when they cancel their policy. (all companies do this)
  2. Privacy Guarantee – We wouldn’t sell their name.
  3. No Pressure, No Hassle Guarantee – Make buying insurance easy!
  4. Total Client Satisfaction Guarantee – They have my commitment to their satisfaction. As you can see, it’s really nothing special. However, like Claude Hopkins writing the Schlitz beer ads in the early 1900s, this may be the same process every other company is using but we’re the only one telling the customer how we do it.

Be creative.

What can you guarantee to increase the security your customer feels when they buy your product?

2. Reframe The Offer

The context of an offer can be as important as the offer itself. One reason you become skeptical is because the context doesn’t fit just right with your offer.

In the book Switch the authors, Chip and Dan Heath, discuss how a couple of researchers in West Virginia influenced people to eat healthier and, more specifically, consume less saturated fat. They identified whole milk as the specific target since it’s the largest source of saturated fat in American’s diet. Their goal was to get people to drink 1% or skim milk instead of whole milk.

Instead of pitching a traditional message saying whole milk is fatty, they reframed what drinking a glass of whole milk means in fat content. Their marketing showed how drinking one glass of whole milk has the same amount of saturated fat as eating five pieces of bacon. Basically, they reframed the context from a cold, creamy, delicious drink to drinking the unhealthy grizzle from a frying pan. Not yummy and it worked.

If the milk industry is reading this, you may be able to sell more milk by changing the label from 1% and skim milk to 99% fat-free or 100% fat free milk and targeting more health conscious consumers. And, it is simply another way to reframe.

Were you thinking it could be difficult to reframe ideas? Think of it from a perspective of playfulness instead. When you’re playful you allow your brain to go in directions it wouldn’t normally consider. This freedom allows you to make random connections you need to reframe your offer.

3. Reframe the Resistance

To state this simply: Instead of letting the resistance stop your customer, use the resistance as their reason to buy.

You can also reframe the resistance itself. It can be changed from something stopping a person from buying you can use the resistance as their reason to buy.

Have you ever had a situation when the person you’re influencing starts asking multiple questions? You can sense a bit of resistance on their part. When this happens, say something like,”These are some great questions. You’re obviously considering this decision very seriously. These are the type of questions that allow you to become completely comfortable with you’re decision to buy today. So, what else do you want to ask before you start?”

This turns the questions from becoming stopping points into a reason they want to start. It may seem like a simple play on words but it does much more. It creates a link in your customer’s mind that more questions asked means more reasons to buy.

If you’re using it in copy on a sales letter, and you know there may be resistance, tell your reader to be skeptical. Write out, “I want you to feel a bit skeptical as you read this. There’s a lot here you’ll want to approach with an open mind. And, as you continue reading, you’ll get to the end and feel confident you’re making the right decision to buy now.”

Simple, no?

It’s okay to be skeptical about how this will work. Spend some time thinking about it. After you’ve used reframing a few times you’ll see how it works and find easier and smoother ways to address it in your own words.

4. Take Your Customer Back To The Future

What would you say if I asked you to help me move tomorrow?

If you’re like most people you would mumble something about how your aunt has plans to take you butterfly hunting with members in her aging butterfly society group. Or some other excuse.

On the other hand, what would you say if I asked you to help me move in a few months?

While the outcome is the same, the time of the decision and action to be performed change. It is moved from a decision now to a future decision.

Resistance is something that occurs now, in the present. You don’t want to take a risk NOW. You don’t want to choose NOW. You don’t want to commit yourself NOW.

If you can move the decision into the future your buyer will feel less pressure now.

People generally think more positively about the future. The decision, while it’s being made now, actually feels more optimistic and hopeful because of this internal time shift. In essence, it disassociates you from the pain and stresses of a decision today and into a more optimistic and positive state.

This isn’t putting off a sale. This is changing their perception of time.

You’ve probably seen this in a retail environment. This is (was) a common practice many major retailers use a couple of times each year. They offer you “No payment for 90 days” or “Interest free financing for 12 months.”

Maybe you don’t have the money now but in 90 days you might. So you’re a little less resistant and maybe you’ll make that purchase with their 90 day credit agreement. Or you don’t have enough money now, but you can easily make payments over the next 12 months and avoid their hefty interest fees. Right?

These have you moving your purchase decision out into the future 90 days or 12 months down the road.

If you don’t have the ability to use it like a retailer, you can change it up a bit. Ask your customer, “If you were to imagine what it’s like 12 months from now, after deciding to start today, how good does it feel to know you made the right decision now?”

Okay, I loaded that question with a few twists in the language but, it gets him imagining the enjoyment of what it’s like to own your product over the last 12 months.

This creates a time distortion effect. He’s imagining what it’s like after he’s already made the decision and is looking back at how good the decision was to have made…today.

That may not overcome a “no money” objection but it moves your customer past their skepticism today so they can imagine what it’s like as the proud owner of what you’re selling.

Now, what if you were to imagine a year from today and look back to today as the day you started using this technique? Notice all the times you’ve been able to use this technique. How much more has this helped you to make your life better?

5. Change The Comparison

In a past life, I was in the cemetery business selling cemetery and funerals to people who are still alive. It’s called pre-need cemetery and funerals (And is probably the only thing you can sell and really say it’s “pre-need.”).

When I had a customer at the cemetery, I would drive them around in a golf cart to let them get an idea of where everything is located. As we drove around the cemetery, I would explain how they could own a small private mausoleum for two people for only $75,000. We also had some lovely private estates that allow burial for up to 8 family members. It has a private, nicely manicured garden area and they start at $30,000 (a much better option per person but the mausoleum is truly more beautiful, in my opinion).

If you’re like most of my customers you’re probably thinking, “Holy crap that’s a lot of money to die! I would never spend $30,000 to be buried. Just throw me out in a pine box” (A pine box/casket was over $1000, if that really is your plan.).

Part of the reason I did this was to test and see if the bigger sale was something that might interest them. But, what I didn’t understand at the time was, I was giving them a price (comparison) point to reference what the cost of a cemetery space is now. Most people who come to a cemetery don’t have any idea what costs are involved for a funeral, a cremation, or a burial. I gave them a point of comparison and when I explained a single plot is only $1000 they weren’t as shocked.

Remember this: No decision is made in a vacuum.

No matter what you buy you are always referencing that decision against something.

If you sell how to get rich quick, your customer is weighing his options against his future income potential and what he makes now. If you sell an eBook, you’re compared against traditional books and other media. If you sell seminars, you compare against other media for learning. In all of these you’ll also compare against having to put food on the table and random ideas other people put into your customer’s head.

In our insurance agency, our marketing emphasized the fact we could shop eight different insurance companies with one phone call or by filling out our easy online quote form. Most people are familiar with the major insurance company’s marketing to call them for one quote from that company.

Our marketing changed the comparison. It explained how you could spend at least two hours calling eight different insurance companies or you could call us for 17 minutes, and we’ll quote eight for you. We could save you time and money. We were able to change it from just a money decision to a time and money decision.

So give your customer the reference point for comparison. Even if it’s an “apple to orange” comparison, give it. It’s important for you set the comparison points so your customer isn’t guessing and using his incorrect reference points.

6. Create Distractions

Have you ever felt confused and overwhelmed when buying something? Not information overload confusion. The type of confusion where you feel like your questions haven’t been answered but you bought their product anyhow?

This is a technique used when there are flaws in the product or service. And, instead of fixing those flaws it’s easier to distract away from them by pointing out other advantages or creating confusion around the flawed parts.

This is not a great technique to use and I won’t spend more time on it here. I don’t recommend it and I only use it for my own personal entertainment.

Work on fixing your product so you don’t have to distract away from issues. It will be better in the long run and reduce refunds and unhappy customers.

What’s Next?

These six techniques can be overwhelming too. They work best when you have a Skeptical customer. They work when your customer’s resistance is against the offer you’re presenting.

Take these techniques and run with them playfully. Find the way they work for you.

The next article in the series is on the type of resistance called Inertia. I call these buyers, “the lump.” You’ll find out why next time.

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If you missed the first 2 posts in the series you can find them here:

1 From the book Resistance and Persuasion by Dr. Eric Knowles.

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  1. says

    Excellent post Matt! I particularly like the reframing and comparison sections. As you point out, no decision is made in a vacuum so when it comes to the price objection sales 101 is simply to ask, “Compared to what?” A great reference tool is William Poundstone’s book “Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and how to take advantage of it)”.

    • says

      Thank you, Brian.
      I think the comparisons people are making is the one thing most in marketing and sales forget more than anything. There is a belief the customer is making the decision to buy simply on the merits of the product or service and not taking into account their decision against every other need or luxury on the customer’s mind. These need to be considered and inoculated against, too.

      Priceless is on my “to read” list. And, since you mentioned it, I think I’ll pull it down and get through it this week. Thanks.