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The Power of Fear in Sales and Marketing

The Power of Fear in Sales and Marketing

February 6, 2018

So many of my clients offer amazing shit. Like crazy software and technology which do incredible things, or financial products that make unbelievable returns, or cutting-edge goods for consumers which make life easier and more rewarding.

I am certain you offer some pretty cool stuff too, which would greatly benefit the people you are trying to sell it to – if only they would buy it.

I am also sure that one of your main challenges is — not proving that your product or service kicks ass – its getting the prospect to change his damn mind about owning it!

Some people, even if you explain the thing up, down and sideways, just refuse to change even if its clearly for their own good. Or they are too busy to pay attention.

But there is something which can highly motivate prospects to pull the trigger. It’s a primordial thing which cuts through logical objections and hits deep within the buyer’s psyche. And you can harness it to get even stubborn and indifferent buyers involved in your offerings.

It’s called FEAR.

And it can trump all rationality. I should know: although it is ludicrous-looking and clearly fictitious, my 11-year-old STILL freaks out at the stupid IT clown and climbs into our bed to sleep when he sees it. He rationally knows it can never hurt him, but fear still overcomes his mind and motivates him to act in self-preservation.

Stop selling rationally

We’ve all heard the truism that people buy emotionally, and then use logic to rationalize the purchase. This is very obvious with B2C sales.

An example would be when a shopper goes to Costco to pick up some essentials and walks out with a new 70” HDTV. They had no need for this thing, but seeing the gorgeous picture on the display model and the Limited Time Offer signs, they buy it because “It’s such a good deal,” and “It’s time for an upgrade,” and most importantly, “IF I DON’T BUY IT NOW, I WILL MISS MY CHANCE!”

The last is really the driving force. The buyer has a Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). That fear spurs a buying decision which is then rationalized.

What might be missed is that B2B works the same way. A corporate buyer, analytical and bureaucratic as he or she may seem, is still making a decision emotionally and personally. He or she thinks “If I approve this purchase for the company, it will make me look good,” or “If I don’t buy this, we will lag behind our competitor and I will possibly lose my job.”

So, while you need to prepare ROI or cost/benefit analyses so that the buyer can back up the decision with rational data, you must still hit their emotional core if you want to get a deal done. Every time.

Tap into the primal brain

There are many primal drivers you can tap into when selling. Sex, greed, and excitement are some. But FEAR is one of the strongest and tends to spur immediate action in order to avoid pain or loss.

How do you apply this practically? As neatly summed up in this article on Crazyegg, there are three simple ingredients which you should establish in the mind of the buyer:

  1. You are likely to be affected
  2. When it affects you, it will be painful
  3. You have the ability to avoid this pain

In step 1, the fear has to involve something that affects the buyer personally, or else why would they care? For step 2, you can establish how painful the situation could be through what-if scenarios, anecdotes of others in similar positions, expert analyses and news reports predicting calamity, and so forth. And then the most pertinent to you as a salesperson is to establish that all of that horror can be avoided in step 3, and confirm that your product or service does the trick.

Fear of missing out

I mentioned FOMO earlier. This fear is based on scarcity. It creates the feeling that the buyer will miss an opportunity. Missing the opportunity then equals, in the mind of the buyer, loss of prestige, loss of position in marketplace, loss of a fun experience, loss of potential profit…you get the idea.

An example of how this could be applied is given by Timothy Hughes in an interesting piece on FOMO. He relates how one of the telemarketers he supervised just crushed it when it came to getting appointments with university decision makers using FOMO.

She would say things like “We are currently meeting with other universities” or “We have a number of review meetings with a number of councils in your area” which implied that if the prospect did not meet as well, the competition would have a leg up.

The prospect could also simply feel weird and left out, and therefore agree to the appointment. Social pressure is a huge part of FOMO and no one is immune.

To further illustrate how fear/FOMO works I real life, here are some more examples:

1st pic

Source: https://sumo.com/stories/email-subject-line-examples

Here is a classic example of FOMO. There is scarcity (only 500) and greed (40% off) in play. Do I fully believe they won’t give the deal to 1000 people? Not really, since it’s a digital product so its no sweat off their back to service more accounts. If I were in the market for the product, it might motivate me to buy just in case, but the believability factor is low.

2nd pic

Source: http://persuasion-and-influence.blogspot.com/2015/02/if-you-arent-totally-clean-you-are.html

The slogan for this ad is “If you aren’t totally clean you are filthy.” It makes me want to vomit. But it also makes me want to scrub my hands clean. And when I go to the store, seeing a bottle of “Just” will certainly attract my attention. If there’s a sale, I might buy it. But, I could also see the brand becoming too strongly associated with the negative imagery, causing some consumers to shun it.

3rd pic

Source: https://conversionxl.com/blog/scarcity-examples/

This Booking.com example is my favorite of the three examples. They literally show you that you missed out on a deal, but point out in heart-accelerating RED that there is another deal you can take advantage of – but you’d better hurry because that one is almost sold out too! This ad makes we want to book the damn room right now, and then justify my trip to Ireland somehow. Like whisky tasting.

In summary, fear can cut through a lot of resistance when marketing or selling by directly engaging the emotional brain. If you are holding back on using fear/FOMO because you feel it is manipulative, cut the bullshit. ALL SALES ARE MANIPULATIVE! From the label on a can of beans to the pitch of a B2B software consultant – it’s all designed to get you to spend money! And you don’t have to be an unethical douchebag to use fear/FOMO.

Not convinced? Let me show you. I will give you a FREE FEAR/FOMO ad/message if you contact me. I will tailor it to your business so you can test it out and see for yourself.

Contact me on my cell at 760.815.4464 or shoot me a line at shaun@old.volohaus.com to take advantage of this offer. Or you’ll DIE (just kidding).