If you were to boil down marketing to a single word, it would be “risk”.
When a client is ready to buy they still hesitate. Even when there's a sense of urgency on their part, they still go through a series of steps before they come to a decision. What are those steps? Why do clients seem to back away at the last minute?
In this two-part series, we examine how the “big boy” risk dominates the buying process. We then learn how to remove those barriers that cause risk.
In ‘part 1 of this 2-part series' Sean talks about
Part 1: Why Clients Don’t Buy (Understanding The Elements of Risk)
Part 2: Why The Risk Factor Changes With Every Version Of Your Product/Service
Part 3: How Pre-sell Dramatically Ramps Down Risk
“This transcript hasn’t been checked for typos, so you may well find some. If you do, let us know and we’ll be sure to fix them.”
Last month I decided to buy some software for sound editing.
And with that decision, I started a merry dance.
You know that dance, don’t you? It’s called the “should I, shouldn’t I” dance.
First, I spent an enormous amount of time reading up on what I was about to buy. Did it fit my needs? Was it just a duplication of the software I already had in place? Would it be easy enough to learn? Then, I delved deep into the testimonials. 20 minutes later, I was still reading—not quite sure what I was looking for, when every testimonial clearly seemed to signal the software was right for me. Almost an hour later, not entirely sure of my decision, I pressed the “buy now” button.
So what was the price of the software?
It was $350. And you think—“Ah, that makes sense You have to do a fair bit of research before plonking down that much money.” And you’d be right. When faced with a slightly risky decision, we have to make sure we do our due diligence, don’t we?
I spent another hour going through the very same process: The features, benefits, testimonials, comparison—all while assessing whether I needed the product. The only issue was this new product was priced at two dollars and ninety-nine cents!
So why spend the same amount of time and effort on a product that costs less than the price of a coffee?
Welcome to the tangled universe of risk, where logic seems to go into a blackhole. Where we spend as much time debating whether to go ahead with a decision, even if a product or service is offered free. We explore why risk isn’t always connected to money, or even the size of the transaction. And while it may seem that we behave unpredictably, our actions are remarkably consistent every time we have to make a decision. Worst of all, despite knowing it’s pointless spending hours debating whether a $2.99 purchase is worth it, we can’t help ourselves. We go through similar actions over and over again.
If we’re so hopeless when we’re aware of our actions, how can we predict the behaviour of our clients?
And how do we reduce or even eliminate risk? How do we get to the stage where the client doesn’t even read your sales page and buys your product completely on trust—even when it’s an expensive purchase? Let’s dig into this crazy universe of risk—shall we?
We’ll delve deep into three topics
– Why Clients Don’t Buy (Understanding The Elements of Risk)
– Why The Risk Factor Changes With Every Version Of Your Product/Service
– How Pre-sell Dramatically Ramps Down Risk
Part 1: Why Clients Don’t Buy (Understanding The Elements of Risk)
Modern see-saws are kind of boring.
You don’t even need someone to sit on the other side. They have all these fancy spring mechanisms so that—in effect—you could see saw your way to your heart’s content. What the modern see-saw misses is the fun that came with understanding balance. As kids, the see-saw mechanism was quick to demonstrate how balance made an enormous difference. And when we decide to look at risk, we must first understand balance.
Now if you’ve read The Brain Audit, you’ll know that you need seven elements to take the client from “hmmm” to “yes, I want to buy your product or service”. The first three of those seven are the problem, solution and target profile. The next four are objections, testimonials, risk reversal and uniqueness. What we’re experiencing in The Brain Audit is a factor of balance. The first three elements of problem, solution and target profile balance out the next four elements. The first three elements are all about attraction—the next four are about risk.
Risk, as you can see, is the big boy on the see-saw
No matter how good you are at attracting a prospect, there’s an enormous risk factor always lurking on the sales playground. To understand how we need to reduce that risk, let’s examine each of those four elements, one at a time. On our list, we have objections, testimonials, risk-reversal and uniqueness. And of course, that list makes no sense at all, does it? Because we just saw risk-reversal as one of the elements in the list. If this topic is about risk, then isn’t risk-reversal supposed to take care of the risk? Interestingly, no. Risk-reversal is only a part of the whole “gang of four”.
Let’s start with the first of the four—objections
Objections are the harbinger of risk. They’re like vultures waiting to land and chomp off the sale. But just like vultures, the reputation of objections is misplaced. Every possible purchase has not one—but many objections. But even if we were to sidestep the sales process and just look at your life, you’d see that objections play a big role. If someone said to you: Come over on Sunday—notice, notice how your brain goes for a little spin. That’s because your brain is bringing up the objections—even if you you’re semi-keen to go over. Is it just a “come over” situation, you wonder. Or will there be lunch? Will you have to have lunch in advance. All these questions go circling madly in your brain. Should you make an excuse, and just stay home, you wonder? And the moment you do all of this wondering, you’ve entered the world of objections.
There are two big reasons why objections show up
The first—and most important reason objections are roused—is because necessary information is missing. As we noticed in the “come over to my place” situation, the complete lack of information drives the prospect crazy. Most objections arise directly from the fact that you’ve held back the most important information—the information needed to make the sale. Whether you’re buying a car or software for $2.99, the objections are what will hold the client back repeatedly.
And we may say, “I know this stuff. Objections are marketing 101”. And yet, time and time again, a client will come right to the point of buying the product or service—and then back away. In some cases, this is because the information is not available, but in today’s world, there’s also a pretty good chance that the client hasn’t seen the information. Because we’re all drowning in information, we start to skim—and miss out on certain points—points important to us. This builds up the risk tremendously—and more so for an expensive product or service.
At this point in time, the Article Writing Course is about $3000
$3000 is a fair bit of money, even when you’re absolutely sure of the results. There are a ton of objections that come up almost immediately.
– Will Sean be present at all times?
– Will there be specific assignments and will they be looked at daily?
– Will the group I’m in work out—after all, I don’t know any of them!
– Will there be specific guidelines for the course?
The answer to all of this is yes, yes and yes. And yes. The sales page must, in graphics and text—take apart the objections. And this brings us to a very important juncture. No matter what you say on your sales page, it’s just you saying stuff to sell your course. What an audience looks at, right after you’ve reduced their risk is the very next element—testimonials.
Testimonials are the opposite of objections
Yup, you heard right. Testimonials are not the wonderful things client write about your business. Instead, they have a clear and definite purpose. That purpose is to destroy the objections—and the risk—but from a third party point of view. Which is why you need first to list all the objections you receive—and continue to receive from clients. Once you get these objections, get your current clients to address the risk with their testimonials.
When you look at the Article Writing Course, for instance, we realise that it’s expensive. We realise there are courses that are $1000 or even $500. They may not be the competition for Psychotactics, but you have to know that first hand from a client who’s done the course. Someone who’s taken the journey. They need to tell you how the course has tiny increments; how it has groups that magically work together; that I—Sean am there all the time, almost never sleeping, always hovering, always moving you ahead.
But they also need to compare it with courses they’ve done before; experiences they’ve been through and found to be less than satisfactory. And to make sure this happens, we ask the alumni of every course as many as 17 questions. In return, we get a 1500 word answer. Notice what’s happening to you as you skim through the prospectus? You suddenly notice there are over 80 pages of testimonials.
You read maybe one or two, possibly even getting to three—but those walls of risk are coming down very quickly indeed. But why? Because the testimonial attacked the risk from three angles—first it took on the objection head on, it was a third-party experience, but most importantly, it wasn’t just a few lines. 1500 words mean a lot to a prospect. They paint a picture that 20-30 words could never do. And the risk factor starts to reduce considerably.
But we’re not done yet—because we’ve only dealt with the objections and testimonials.
It’s now time for the risk reversal
Seems odd, doesn’t it? Why have a risk-reversal when you’re already dealing with the objections? This is the question we had to ask ourselves as well when we ran into the concept of risk-reversal. Back in the early days of Psychotactics, we would sell home study versions of our courses and workshops. Back then in the good ol’ days, clients were more than happy to get a big box in the mail.
That box would contain a binder with a ton of notes and yes, CDs. As we continued to sell the product, we’d get a few returns now and then (every product gets returns). When we’d open the returned products, we were foxed at how immaculate the contents of the boxes happened to be. The CDs looked like they’d never been touched—or touched and wiped clean. The notes—not a smear or tear in place. The boxes looked almost identical to the condition they were shipped out. And that made us realise that risk-reversal is not the same as objections. Risk-reversal is the biggest fear the client has—a fear that must be addressed and put in bold, bright lights so it can’t be missed.
The risk wasn’t that clients wanted their money back
The risk was they were afraid to go through the package in detail as they feared they wouldn’t get their money back if the materials were soiled in any way. From that came the “The Lawn Mower Guarantee”. A guarantee that stated: If you don’t like the product, you’re free to take your lawn mower, run over the CDs and notes—then put them in the box and ship it back. The moment clients set their eyes on that guarantee; the sales went up exponentially.
When Zappos.com started selling shoes online, there were smirks
Who would buy shoes online? Sure, shoes were a $40 billion market, but shoes online? As you can see, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com was voicing his objections. But his eventual partner, Nick Swinmurn, was prepared. “It’s a $40 billion market”, Swinmurn repeated, and the most interesting thing was that 5% of shoe sales was already being sold by mail order catalogs. But what was their risk-reversal? A money back guarantee, right? After all, shoes may not fit; they may not look as good as they do online—or you may just change your mind.
But no, that wasn’t the guarantee
The risk was that you’d have to figure out how to ship the shoes back. So Zappos put in a 365-day return policy with free shipping both ways. Free shipping both ways! That’s the biggest risk of all. And this is the part that most of us may not take the time to figure out. What is the client’s most significant risk? In some cases, it’s a simple money back guarantee, but in most cases, the clients will voice their biggest risk.
To find the real risk, you have to dig.
To find the biggest risk, you have to get clients to list all the possible risks and objections—and get the clients to pick their greatest risk.
And sometimes even that may not be enough. The packages that came back to us untouched told us a precise story—a story that the client might never have voiced. To get to a real risk-reversal and reduce that risk, you can’t just hope that a shiny money-back guarantee will work. You have to dig, and dig deep.
But nothing needs more digging than the last element—the uniqueness
We’ve covered objections, testimonials and risk-reversal, but all that does is set up a client to go to the competition. And that’s where uniqueness comes in. Once you’ve covered all the other elements, the client needs to know why they should buy from you and not from anyone else.
If we were to drag the Article Writing Course back into the picture, we’d notice that the competition may be offering courses at a far lower rate—and promising quicker results. After all the Article Writing Course takes 12 weeks—that’s three whole months. You have assignments, and these are checked daily. This means you have to run your business and do your assignments every single day.
This makes the course baby-tough
So what’s baby-tough. If you have a cat, you have to put out their food, their water, and that’s probably all you need in terms of work. A dog—now that would involve a walk, some play time—it’s a lot more work. A baby on the other hand—a newborn—that means you’re sleep deprived for quite a while. That is the uniqueness of the Article Writing Course. It’s baby-tough. It means you work extremely hard for the three months—and that hard work shows up as a skill on the other side.
Right before we had this uniqueness in place, it was a lot harder to sell the course
We tackled the objections, had reams of testimonials and the risk-reversal (not money-back, but that you’d only tackle tiny increments every day). Still, it was a lot harder to sell the course. The moment we added the uniqueness, the seats were filled in a day, then half a day and in some cases as little as 25 minutes.
A client wants to get the most unique product or service possible. To get anything but the best is hardly acceptable. The moment the Article Writing Course became baby-tough, the clients knew they were in for some real work. And real results. The other courses with their “easy” and “quick” results now became a liability.
In fact, uniqueness can stand alone—and clients may ignore the other elements of risk if the uniqueness is strong enough. When you think of Domino’s pizza delivering in “30 minutes or it’s free”, there could have been many other objections, zero testimonials, and well, we’ll accept the risk-reversal. But it’s the uniqueness of screamingly quick delivery that got the attention of the client. When you look at products and services that clients choose—even when they’re not the best in the market place, it’s usually because of the uniqueness.
And that’s because the uniqueness creates extreme clarity. When you’re faced with why you chose one computer over the next, why you chose one chartered accountant over the other—you don’t need muddiness. The more fuzzy the message, the less likely your audience is to pick you over the other. Working on your uniqueness is your top priority, and every product or service should have their uniqueness. The company may have one level of uniqueness, but every product or service needs to have their uniqueness as well.
When we think of risk, it’s easy to isolate ourselves to just the risk-reversal
There’s no doubt the risk-reversal is very important—once you find the real risk involved. Just like Zappos figured out the both-ways free shipping was more important, you too have to dig into the nuances of your product or service. The objections can’t be left out because they cause too much chaos in the mind of the client.
Even a simple Sunday outing without the proper information, becomes a matter of “should I, shouldn’t I?”. And testimonials are a science that’s worth delving into. Getting long, detailed answers turn your testimonials into an experience, not just some sugary, nice things your client is saying about your product or service.
But what's the one thing you need to work on as quickly as possible?
It’s always the uniqueness. What makes your product or service unique? What makes it different from the competition? That’s the question clients want you to answer right away as it creates clarity. The client can justify to themselves and others in their world, why they bought the product or service.
In The Brain Audit, there are two distinct parts: the attraction factor—and the risk.
It’s like a see-saw—an old-fashioned see-saw. It’s fun when both sides are balanced—well, almost balanced!
Let's move to Part 2: Why The Risk Factor Changes With Every Version Of Your Product/Service