As I slid into the dentist’s chair the dental hygienist asked me the reason was for my visit.
“I chipped my tooth,” I said and showed her my tooth. “I’m getting it fixed.”
“That chip isn’t too bad. Should be easy for the dentist. How did you chip it?” she asked.
“I caught a bullet in my teeth.”
She just stopped and stared at me. She was frozen except for her jaw, which kept dropping towards the ground.
Slowly she asks, “Really?”
“Do you think I would joke about that?”
A grin crawled across my face and she got it. Then she started to laugh and said how she “started to think I was some sort of superhero” (I am just not the stopping bullets kind of superhero).
The funny part: She wanted to believe me.
My voice was sincere. I had no tone of sarcasm.
For a few seconds, she wanted to believe. Yet it conflicted with her reality of what’s humanly possible.
Your Customer Wants To Believe You
Most people you meet believe what you say. They want to believe it’s true. They’re waiting for something magical to hit them. And they believe in the magic.
They believe there is some pill that will cure their (fill in the blank) problem. Make them rich. Make their life happy. Etc.
They believe it exists.
And they’re searching for it.
It’s a form of what psychologists call expectation assimilation. We expect something to happen and it does. This has been shown in multiple studies.
In the book Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink wrote about a study they did in 2004 with chocolate/strawberry yogurt and eating in the dark.
Alan Wright and I invited 32 Natick Lab employees (in squad-size groups of eight) to rate the taste of some new strawberry yogurts the Army was testing. We told them we wanted to make sure the food tasted good even if it couldn’t be seen.
Then we turned out the lights in the lab.
And we did not give them strawberry yogurt. We gave them chocolate yogurt. It didn’t seem to matter very much. The mere suggestion that they were eating strawberry yogurt led 19 of 32 people to rate it as having a good strawberry taste. One even said that strawberry yogurt was her favorite yogurt and this would be her new favorite brand. Soldiers, just like us, use all sorts of cues or signals to help taste food. One of these is our eyesight. If it doesn’t look like strawberry, it doesn’t taste like strawberry. But another important cue is the name of a food. If we can’t see the food and someone tells us we’re going to taste strawberry, we taste strawberry, even if it’s really chocolate.
So they want to believe and buy from us. What stops them?
Your Customer Is Searching For Reasons Not To Buy
Your customer will listen to you and read your material. Unconsciously, he’s searching for reasons NOT to buy.
He’s searching for the things that don’t relate to him. How he’s different. How your product will fail when he gets it in his hands.
Your customer has zero confidence in himself or in others.
Every good retailer understands that the customer, God love her, lacks confidence. (Again, please excuse the “her.” I am just reflecting the fact that the vast majority of mall and department store customers are women. And for the record, male customers lack confidence, too.) – From Threshold Resistance by Alfred Taubman – often considered the father of the modern shopping mall.
And, as the decision becomes more complex, his confidence drops even more. If he’s making a small purchase the mistake isn’t a big deal. But if it becomes something like technology, and he has the technical acumen of my father-in-law, the chance of him acting are slim to none.
The less someone understands about your category the more they’ll choose NOT to choose.
This grows out of your customer’s life history. He has a lifetime of disappointment… And a garage full of crap previously sold to him.
You know what I’m talking about. Go look in your garage or closets. Think about your history of ‘great’ purchases that failed you.
The less someone understands about your category the more they’ll choose NOT to choose.
You may have an exercise machine with piles of laundry or dust on top of it. Or some amazing cooking utensil that is only amazing because it worked for 2 days.
Still, we want to believe.
Yet you have a history of things that didn’t work lying behind you. Haunting you. Making you feel less than competent. In some ways, making you feel like a failure.
While your customer believes in the magic pill he also knows someone has lied to him in the past, will lie to him in the present and far into the future.
Your Customer’s 4 Main Fears:
1. Your Customer Fears You’ll Waste Their Time
If you’ve ever assembled Ikea furniture you’ll understand this. I have bought many pieces in my life. It always looks easy to assemble. The instructions are straight-forward. Yet, something gets messed up and I have to backtrack. Time wasted but I finally assembled it correctly.
On the other hand, I’ve bought software that just didn’t deliver. For this site I hate adding new plugins. I spend hours adjusting settings. Getting everything just right. Then, it doesn’t work right. There’s a conflict.
I’ve now spent countless hours attempting to use the product and it doesn’t work. (Loud swearing begins!)
You can get a refund.
And, you could’ve been using something that actually did work.
When your product is more complex or unknown, the more this fear will weigh down your customer.
2. Your Customer Fears You’ll Waste Their Money
This is obvious. Nobody wants to stand on a corner and burn $100 bills. When making bad purchases, this is what it feels like. Money burning right in front of your eyes.
I won’t have to give many examples here. You can quickly scan your memory and find one or two in your recent history. If it wasn’t a complete waste, you can easily find examples of something that didn’t deliver value greater than what you paid.
Wasted money on a bad purchase is a common experience shared by everyone.
3. Your Customer Fears Feeling Stupid And Sold
As the saying goes, “People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.”
In the US, we go to the mall to shop. It’s a recreation people do on the weekend in their free time. This may not seem silly to you but think about it. Instead of doing something more exhilarating with our lives, we go to a mall to buy things we often do not need.
It’s fun to stroll and look at items. But it’s not fun to sit across the desk of a car salesman (if you’re in the car business you may be different. But most people don’t think car buying is a fun experience. So take this to heart!)
After buying a car you usually feel abused. Somehow you were cheated. Taken advantage of. You were sold.
And it doesn’t feel good.
You don’t like it. And your customer hates feeling sold.
4. Your Customer Fears Being Embarrassed
You bought the Fat Melting Exercycle-Stepper And Full Body MassagerTM . It guarantees the fat will just melt off and you’ll achieve Zen-like meditative exercising states. In only 3 minutes a day.
After a few weeks your friends start asking you how your new machine is working out. You don’t seem any more Zen-like. You don’t have more energy. Maybe they joke about your purchase – if that’s the case, you may need to find new friends.
You feel embarrassed.
It doesn’t do what you hoped. Or you can’t get it to do what you expected. And you have to feel the judgmental neighbor’s eyes looking at you as you walk to and from the mailbox.
It’s bad enough to buy something that wastes money. Now your friends and neighbors know too. And you get to feel the embarrassment. For many people, that’s worse.
What Do You Do?
They want to believe. But your customer is looking for reasons it won’t work. Your customer is afraid and insecure. And this can work to your advantage.
Again Taubman wrote:
While this inherent insecurity contributes to threshold resistance, it also presents the good retailer with a golden opportunity. By earning the trust and confidence of your shoppers—through product knowledge, service, taste level, and consistency—you can win a customer’s loyalty for life.
This is similar to Jay Abraham’s “Strategy of Preeminence.” If you can describe your customer’s problem in more clearly, in more detail, more succinctly, and better than your customer then there is an automatic transfer of trust and belief that you have the solution for them.
While this seems simple, this is exteremely difficult.
And there are many strategies and tactics to working with your customer’s natural resistance. I go through them in detail here.
Taubman is only slightly correct by saying “you can win a customer’s loyalty for life.” Because customer loyalty is fleeting.
It’s your job to continually resell the loyalty.
You can joke with them about catching a bullet in your teeth. But if you violate one of the fears it will all go up in smoke. Poof. Any loyalty will vanish more quickly than the magicians beautiful assistant.