Sales Lessons Learned in the Great Outdoors: Business Tech & Fear of Change
Fear can have a huge impact on decision-making. If you place a person in a high-pressure situation, they may reflexively respond with either aggression or fear. This is called the fight or flight response. While this mechanism does a great job keeping us alive in life-or-death situations, it can stifle our ability to learn, grow, and thrive when triggered in everyday situations.
I used to work as an outdoor guide and instructor where I spent much of my time helping people confront their fears. In the great outdoors, fear can complicate existing challenges that require careful decision-making – quickly turning a normal situation into a life-threatening one. To prevent this, I used three simple motivational tools to help people manage their fear.
- Choice: Allow people agency over how, when, and if they participated in activities. They usually choose the level of engagement that’s most appropriate for them.
- Support: To manage feelings of shame or failure, provide people with encouragement and advice. Mold the rest of the participants into a trusting and supportive group for everyone.
- Value: Explain the physical and mental challenges people would face and list the tangible and intangible rewards of facing them.
How does this apply to business technology?
As an outdoor guide, it was typically fear of extended time outdoors, fear of heights, or social anxiety that lead people to spin out of control and make bad decisions. As a sales or service person, you will find that the most common source of bad decision-making is fear of change. Most customers feel safe sitting at their desks and working with products or services they’re comfortable with. Even if they know there is something better out there, giving up that comfort to go find it can be very scary.
When it comes to SaaS and business technology, salespeople find that many customers are wasting time with manual processes, losing track of potential sales, or failing to solve customer complaints in a timely manner with their ineffective or outdated software. They may ask, “Why go through the pain of change now when it’s been ‘good enough’ for so long?” Your job is to show them that although change may be challenging, it’s less painful and damaging in the long run than staying the same.
The three motivational tools I used to manage fear in my former role are highly transferable to a business or sales environment. If a potential customer is pushed too far or too fast, they may become irritated, defensive, and impossible to work with (fight). Or they may pull the plug on the opportunity (flight). So, I’ve put together a list of ways to use these tools and help your customers, using the sale of SaaS and business technology as an example.
- Provide a few targeted options that can solve your customer’s challenges, rather than one single magical fix.
- Present several phased roll-out plans for different aspects of the service or software your customer is interested in.
- There is such a thing as too many choices, especially if you’re not presenting them well! Don’t try to explain everything all at once. First, give a jargon-free, high-level summary using customer-centric language. Then, expand on that summary with the right details at discerning times.
- Understand your customer’s business, the people involved, and the challenges they face.
- Provide accurate information relevant to your customer’s needs. Be honest about what you do and don’t know.
- Be reliable and transparent. Submit all information and supporting resources on or before agreed upon deadlines. If you think you’ll run into issues or miss a deadline, explain this to your customer before that happens.
- In whatever metric is most appropriate, explain the ongoing cost of their current situation vs. the combined cost of change and ongoing cost of the future situation.
- Show them what challenges they will face on the path to success and what that success will look like.
- For each solution you suggest, give an accurate sense of the time and monetary investment needed to implement it.
The Bottom Line
These things will not eliminate fear of change. Instead, they will provide customers with the courage they need to conquer it. Once you can suggest the right choices, provide positive support, and demonstrate the value of changing up their technology stack, your customer’s fear of change will become a manageable obstacle for everyone involved.
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