Eliminating Buyer Resistance Part 2: Reactance

This is the second post in the series on buyer resistance. This will cover the first type of resistance called Reactance1. 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 so you can see what’s next.

What is Reactance?

Resistance Triangle - Reactance, Skepticism, InertiaReactance is experienced when you feel like you’re being pushed into buying. It’s a reaction evolved from the sales process. As the pressure builds and you begin requiring commitments from your customer, they begin to pull away. Something inside causes your customer to jerk away, disagree with you, raise objections, or stop reading your sales letter.

This form of resistance can also develop at the beginning of the sales process. For example, I have a strong reaction when I know I’m going to speak with a salesperson. I don’t like to answer questions beyond “yes” or “no.” I hold back. I know what a salesperson is looking for. I know their “tricks.” I don’t want to be baited and sold. I want to buy. And, when I start to hear the sales speak I immediately go into a negative state. This is another form of Reactance.

So how do you eliminate this reactance in your buyer?

7 Ways To Eliminate Reactance In Your Customer

1. Make It a Relationship, Not A One Time Sale

Nobody wants to feel like another notch on the headboard of your sales career. Yes, it’s important to watch your sales numbers and pay attention to your conversion rates, cost per lead, etc. However, when working with your list, niche, tribe, or whatever you want to call your prospect base, emphasize your relationship with them. Make them understand this isn’t a quick sale for you, even if it’s the only thing you sell.

It is funny to me how over the last few years, social media is buzzing with how they’re changing the sales process. As many there say, “you’re finally able to build a relationship with your customer base.”

I disagree.

Good marketing has always been about building a relationship. We did it with direct mail and newsletters 15 years ago (and in my businesses last year). Letting your customer know you’re here and plan to be around to help out in the future goes a long way. Social media is simply another way to extend the relationship experience.

Nowadays, blogging for the small business is becoming your way to build a relationship. It helps establish your credibility and knowledge. A blog is more than a single page website with sales information. You’re providing value before and after the sale. Your goal is to become an advisor in the eyes of the customer instead of a salesman only out to empty their wallet.

2. Use Stories To Create Distance From The Resistance

Stories have been used for thousands of years to pass along teachings without creating resistance. A story causes you to turn off part of your brain. You get immersed in the flow of the characters and allow the message to easily sink in.

Stories don’t have to be long drawn out tales. You can easily create a story by saying, “I had a customer like you once... and this is what happened with him/her...”

Then, as you continue the story, match the situation your buyer is experiencing. Go through their problems and objections. Show how your previous customer was able to move past his concerns with your solution. The person you’re telling the story to will begin relating those issues to himself. And, he’ll begin the process of finding solutions for himself.

It really is that easy. In fact, when I told a friend of mine about this solution he gave it a try. He was hesitant at first but decided to use it with the next person he had to deal with. He told me how nervous he was. He thought the customer would see through his story. As he got into it, he said his customer sat there listening intently and ended up buying, relating the story back to why he was okay with buying today.

Did you realize I just used the story principle in the last paragraph?

Another way to create a compelling story is to talk about yourself. First, remember talking about yourself is generally a bad idea. You never want to brag about how how wonderful you truly are. However, you can easily tell a story that makes you a hero, demonstrates your intelligence, how you solved the problem their in, whatever. It’s your life story, you find the solution. (If you want a great book on life stories you need to learn to tell, get The Story Factor by Annette Simmons.)

Last, the easiest way to create a persuasive story is with the “it’s just like” strategy. Using this strategy, you can easily create quick, off the cuff stories with layers of meaning by adding “it’s just like...” to the end of your sentence. Then, follow up with what it is like that would eliminate his resistance.

If this seems a little confusing that’s because it’s just like most new things you learn. Over time, and with practice, it becomes a lot more easy and natural.

Get it? (See my post on how to quickly create persuasive metaphors for more on the “it’s just like...” strategy.)

3. Minimize the Request

Obviously, big requests create more resistance than smaller requests. Whether your request is to buy your product or to opt-in to your email list, you want to make the request seem like a minimal commitment on their part.

In research by Cialdini & Schroeder2, volunteers went door-to-door asking for donations to charity. When they added the words “even a penny will help” to the end of the request, there were 21% more households that donated. Not bad. What makes this even better? The amount the average person donated was almost the same in both options. That’s a huge impact.

They received a 21% increase in  the number of households that donated and the same amount of money was given from each household!


My Pay-Per-Click Example:

When I was running my last insurance agency, we used pay-per-click marketing to generate a large portion of our leads. The typical quote form on most insurance websites is several pages long. You fill out some information then click to the next page and fill out more. It feels like there’s no end in sight.

I made our quote forms one page. We still required all the same information, it was just on one page and not five. It was also a lot of personal information like names, address, birthdates, vehicle information, etc. for everyone on the policy. In our tests, one ad with the words, “Fill out our fast, 1 page quote form” outperformed others drastically.

Even though we were still requiring almost the same amount of information, we made the request seem simple and short. We told them it was a “fast, 1 page quote form.” (Also, the form itself reduced resistance because the visitor could see all the information required on the form and could easily determine how fast they could fill it out.)

How about another example where you can use this?

Let's say you have a product with two price and feature options. Your “Basic Package” is the lower priced product and gives all the features most buyers need. Your “Complete Package” has premium pricing and gives your customer all the features plus a bunch of extra stuff beyond the Basic Package.

One way to test the Minimize The Request method is to put copy similar to this near the purchase options on your sales page, “If you were hesitant about how much this will help you, even the Basic Package will help you ...”

This is language you want to seriously test instead of using as is. As much as I'd like to say this improves copy every every time, all markets are different.

4. Say “Yes, and...”

This method is easier to use in verbal rather than written persuasion. But, I’ll show you a nice twist you can use for writing copy.

You may not agree completely with your customer and you don’t have to. However, you don’t want them to know you don’t agree. They believe it and the easiest way to change their belief is to agree with them and then present your ideas.

When you reply to your customer’s question, here are three replies you want to keep in mind:

  • “No” creates resistance.
  • “Yes, but” says you agree, but not fully, and still want to push your ideas.
  • “Yes, and...” demonstrates you’re listening and you agree with your customer.
    Notice how you can make the problem worse by using the first two? It’s not that it will ruin a sales presentation completely but it can create additional challenges.

So, when your customer objects, reply with, “Yes, and this will be a good choice because...” and lay out your reasons. He’ll be a lot less willing to argue with you, if at all. Why?

You’re not arguing with him. If you’re agreeing you can’t be arguing. You’re simply taking his comment and continuing on with it. Essentially you’re reframing what he said in an agreeable manner. “And” is a powerful little word in influence.

Give it a shot.

Over the next few days, with your friends or family say, “Yes, and...” when you get reply. Tell me how this changes your interactions. You’re probably in a habit of saying “no, but...” and will have to practice to break it. Once you do, email me or leave a comment below and let me know how it changed things.

Using “Yes, And...” in writing...

If you’re using this in writing, here’s a quick lesson from Ericksonian hypnosis. (This works even more powerfully in speaking but is a way to incorporate “Yes, and...” in writing.)

Ericksonian hypnosis is, what we call, conversational hypnosis. Milton Erickson pioneered these concepts. One of the key ways he found to get people to go into trance is to “pace and lead” with his words and body.

Pacing is saying/writing something that is true or common knowledge. If I was doing hypnosis, these would be things like, “you're sitting here” “you hear my voice” “you’re thinking.” These are things that are all true. When you hear them a part of your mind says, “yes.”

Leading is saying what you want your customer to do or believe. Again, more examples from hypnosis, “You’re beginning to relax” “You’ll make the changes necessary” “You’ll follow my suggestions.”

Do you notice the difference between the two? Basically, one is stating what’s true (pacing) and the other is making stuff up (leading). Everything you say or write falls into one of these two categories (either a pace or a lead). And, when you follow this structure below you’re feeding your reader the, “Yes, and...” statement. They’ll be thinking “yes, yes, yes, and...” inside their head.

Here’s the structure:

You start with 3 pacing statements and then a leading statement. Like this (with a blatantly boring example).
Pace, pace, pace, lead...
You’re reading these words (pace), there’s a lot of ideas available to you (pace), there’s something here you want to learn (pace), the things you learn will make a big impact in your life (lead).

Then, two pacing statements and then a leading statement.
Pace, pace, lead...
As you use what you’ll learn (pace), you’ll come up with other ideas (pace), which will help you make better use of these tactics (lead).

Then, one pacing statement then a lead.
Pace, lead...
These tactics aren’t known by most of society (pace), so you can use them wherever you want without fear of being caught (lead).

Then you can randomly use pacing or leading statements throughout the rest of your copy.

The point is to gradually build up to statements and behaviors the reader may not fully accept as true. In traditional sales, this would be a version of building a “yes” set. The theory being if you get someone thinking, or saying, “yes” they’re more likely to continue thinking, or saying, “yes” when you ask for the order.

After you’ve finished reading this, go read classic sales letters or listen to political & religious leaders speak (search YouTube). Try to find where they go from pacing to leading. You’ll notice how they blur the lines of fact and making up stuff as they’re speaking/writing.

This structure takes some practice. It will also cause you to write more. Which, in essence, will help you build your skills even more.

5. Acknowledge The Resistance

When people complain, often they just want to be heard. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that their complaint isn’t valid. Usually, it’s a simple psychological need to let it out. We want to be acknowledged and validated. This method allows you to address the resistance and validate what’s going on in your customer’s mind before they even know it’s there.

A good sales letter will always bring up objections and address them. What are the reasons against your customer buying your product? What thought would be gnawing at them in the back of their mind? Find those and tackle them one at a time.

For example, if you were selling a coaching package, you can address any resistance by stating, “Some people may not want the entire 12 month coaching program because...That’s okay. (a version of ‘yes, and…’) The people that do want this go for it because...”

Not everyone will use this technique in their copy. That’s okay. Those that do use it will find it’s something worth testing to see how well it helps increase conversion.

6. “Reverse” Psychology

Reverse psychology was briefly touched on in the first post of this series. You probably did this, or were victim of it, first when you were a child. Basically, you’re telling someone you want them to do the opposite of what you really want them to do.

When my oldest daughter was in preschool she told me some of the kids wouldn’t play the games she wanted to play. I told her when she wanted to play with them to say, “Hey, I have a great game to play! But...um, well...never mind, you wouldn’t want to play this fun game...” and then start to walk away.

The next day, when I picked her up I asked how her day was. She was beaming because she got several different kids to do things she wanted to do. (proud daddy)

My bride does this with me all the time on difficult decisions (because I have the mentality of a preschool kid). It drives me nuts because I know what she’s doing. She prefaces her requests with, “I know you won’t want to...” and then asks me to go to the opera or some other horrible thing.

Even though I know what she’s doing, because of the form of the request, I have to listen to make sure I don’t have a knee jerk reaction.

You get the point?

Now, remember to use this with care.

If the person isn’t resistant to the idea, using this could backfire and actually cause resistance. I’m sure you’ve been in a situation where this backfired so I’m not going to go into it much more. Use with care.

7. Direct The Resistance Where It’s Useful

This is one of my favorite techniques. Ever.

If you're on social media sites, like Twitter or Google+, you may have seen this from certain social media personalities. It’s a great way to build expertise and following without creating resistance.

Since we all have a need to resist at some level, instead of waiting for the customer to tell you his objections, tell him what he should be reacting against. Sounds complicated, right?

How the social media gurus use it is by pointing out what everyone is doing wrong. They’ll post something like, “If you +1 your own post on Google+, you’re doing it wrong,” or, “if you’re using direct mail to lists to build leads, you’re doing it wrong.”

While this somewhat implies a solution, all it’s doing is pointing out where you should be angry. Then, when you run across this situation you can say inside, “yeah, social media guru was right, that’s annoying.” He gets to look like the good (smart) guy. Then, since this is true, other things he posts slips by without you questioning his validity or expertise.

Pretty fancy, right?

You may recognize it as version of the good cop/bad cop you see on TV and movies. You’re giving your customer a bad guy to rally against so he will “confess” or trust you, the good guy.

If you don’t have an industry to move people against, like the social media “experts,” you can point to small flaws in your product or service to resist against. You can point out the shipping time is going to be longer than usual. Point out how that’s a problem because your customer wants to get this as soon as possible. It, in a way, distracts from other issues that would've arrived and gives the person a place to focus their emotion.

Tell them where to be resistant and it won’t surprise you later.

What’s next?

This wraps up Reactance, the first of three types of buyer resistance. The next post we’ll dive into skepticism and what you can do to eliminate it from your customer’s mind.

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1 From the book Resistance and Persuasion by Dr. Eric Knowles.
2 Cialdini, R. B., & Schroeder, D. (1976). Increasing compliance by legitimizing paltry contributions: When even a penny helps. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, 599–604.

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