Address the Fear

John Ridell
Not Business As Usual

I have seen the faces of anguish and despair and they were not pretty. Actually they were the faces of seniors standing in the Geek squad line at Best Buy waiting for a young “genius” to rescue them from their technology woes. In common was their personal belief in their lack of knowledge and their knowing that someone was going to sincerely try to help them in a language they probably did not understand. There was a definite odor of fear in the air.

There is an old theory of selling that says the only reason someone does not buy is fear. This fear may be well founded or it may be totally irrational, but the salesperson who positively addresses this fear will get the order. Said differently, if you cannot understand and positively address this unique fear then you do not deserve this customer’s business.

Think of how this theory is readily applicable to the majority of businesses in Grand county. While many think of our recreational industry as aimed at the young and reckless, the facts are that the vast majority of customers with significant amounts of disposable income do not fit this description. While the youngsters may very well be versed on the lingo and features of the latest skis, bicycles, cocktails, and nouveau cuisine, the vast majority of us are most likely deficient in at least one or more of the important specifics. This knowledge deficiency fuels that fear in all of us. Will the ski design really help me master the moguls? Will I really be able to ride up hills easier? Will I and my dinner guests really enjoy this dish? Fear or apprehension not addressed will result in a “no sale.”

The same holds true for other businesses as well. Home ownership always carries maintenance issues. New home products come to market everyday all professing to increase our enjoyment of our homes while decreasing our costs. Some certainly do and some never quite live up to the hype. So our fear of “over hype” or our fear of not having enough money to pay for the product can stop any of us from beating a path to the provider’s door.

The overall message here is twofold. First, if you are a potential consumer, make yourself an informed consumer. Do a little research, learn a bit of the vocabulary before you start to engage in serious conversations with salespeople. At the very least, get a feel for the marketplace prices. Second, if you are a business owner, manager, or salesperson, take some time to think through how to translate your superior product knowledge into a comfortable dialogue with someone not quite so product sufficient.

This shoulder season is the perfect time to think through new approaches and actually try them out. The rationale is that some approaches are not going to work so failure during this time allows for improvement with a minimum of lost business. At the end of the day, your ability to do this is very likely the key to your individual success and ultimately will have a positive impact on your individual pocketbook. Address the fear—yours first, then the customer’s!

Following a successful international business career, John Riddell turned his attention to small business/entrepreneurial pursuits that included corporate turn-arounds, start-ups, teaching, authoring business and sports columns and serving as VP for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce directing its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth.

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