Selling On Fear Is Easy (Too Easy) 

I recently had a call with one of my coaching clients who was about to give a hacking demonstration to a group of local small business owners. As we talked through the details and got excited about the impact that this content would have on the audience, we both simultaneously began to question whether or not this was actually “good for business.” 

When we took a step back and thought about it, we realized that there was an intensity that would need to be managed throughout the presentation so that the MSP could leave the audience in a place of comfort, not fear. The last thing he wanted was to scare the heck out of a group of business owners, leaving them in a state of distrust that is difficult to overcome. 

Why Fear Isn’t Always An Advantage 

While fear is a very effective emotional reaction that can be used when selling, it is not to the complete advantage that one might think. Does fear prompt a high level of engagement and grab the attention of the prospect? Without question, it does. However it also can be paralyzing in a way and may make it difficult for the prospect to know who to trust, especially since you have put yourself in the position to become the bearer of this “bad news.”

Think about this in another context. Imagine a Financial Advisor approaches you and tells you that the economy is about to collapse and they have an investment vehicle that will protect your money and your business from the effects of this disaster. They proceed to show you statistics, reports, and other means of verifying their opinion. The question is, would you trust them by default? Probably not, unless their story is being echoed across multiple other “trusted” sources, allowing you to then trust this Financial Advisor by association (and ultimately common opinion). 

The Power of MSPs In Cybersecurity: How to monetize security services, and recognize cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. Watch this on-demand webinar featuring Author, Kevin Clune

Offer Counter Facts & Opinions

Using “trust by association” will ultimately help validate your opinion and remove a lot of discomfort that your prospect may have with your delivery, but it doesn’t make it ethical by definition. To really achieve a high level of ethics, consider offering data from multiple sources, even if they don’t exactly tell the same story. Is it a stronger sales position to offer only the one piece of data that tells the most extreme version of this story? Yes, it is. However ethics is about earning long term trust, not short term conversion. 

Offering such a wide range of (possibly inconsistent) information can be confusing, which is why it is important to reiterate your stance and what you believe to be true. For example, I recently saw a report from a well-known IT company that claimed their customer-reported phishing attempts have increased by 30,000%. Should you use such a statistic in your pitch, it would be of an ethical practice to then follow this up with what your experience has been and whether or not it was in fact as extreme and the example provided. In this case, you are able to benefit from the example, while coming off as the more level-headed provider and earning yet a little more trust in the process. 

Keep Your Audience’s Emotions In Balance

You will notice that the common theme here is that whenever you offer information intended to impose fear, it is important to immediately follow this up with something that will balance it out. This could be as simple as a joke or quip aimed to lighten the mood and reset the audience’s emotion and keep them engaged in a positive way. This is great practice for really any sales pitch, not just one regarding cybersecurity products and services. 

I often think about one of my (and every other 30-40 something male’s) favorite films of all time, “Goodfellas.” While this film’s subject matter is clearly not an example of sound “ethics,” its emotional cadence and delivery actually is. In order to captivate the audience for nearly 2.5 hours, Scorsese balances each and every scene with different emotions all coming together as one. By the end, you don’t know who you are supposed to be rooting for and whether or not they achieved the result that you wanted, you just feel satisfied with the outcome. This comfort and satisfaction is more a result of the blend of emotions than it is about the story itself. 

The Power of MSPs In Cybersecurity: How to monetize security services, and recognize cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. Watch this on-demand webinar featuring Author, Kevin Clune

Always Leave A Positive Impression

As you take your prospects through this journey of ups and downs, always remember that you need to end on an “up.” They should feel a sense of relief and come away feeling thankful that someone took the time to educate them without making them more vulnerable than they already are. Trust, confidence, and comfort are the goals when it comes to ethical sales practices and in this case fear is simply a counterpoint used to demonstrate what these emotions look like. 

Anyone can sell on fear and prompt a buyer to make an irrational decision, but that doesn’t often result in a good long term customer relationship. Take the time to formulate a well-thought out (and ethical) approach and you will be rewarded for it in the long term. 

Watch as Author Kevin Clune and VIPRE’s Jason Norton go “beyond the blog” to discuss the effect fear has on your prospect’s when buying cybersecurity services.

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