The one time that you SHOULD make your prospects feel stupid

I remember one time trying to sell insurance to a prospective client and I fell into the terrible industry insider habit of using an acronym instead of the actual name of the insurance product. That client called me out on it (rather harshly, but for good reason) and reminded me that I was the expert and she didn’t know what the acronym meant. It put me in my place and I’ve never forgotten the lesson.

In general, it’s a bad idea to make your prospects feel stupid. Salespeople lose sales because they (unintentionally) belittle their potential customer by speaking down to them or by acting in a condescending manner. It can be easy to do, especially if your profession requires a lot of education or qualifications, or if there are a lot of difficult-to-understand intricacies (like with the insurance I was selling).

But there is one time when it’s okay to make your prospects feel stupid.

Okay, I don’t mean that you should actually TELL someone that that they are stupid. You should always sell positively and professionally! But it’s okay to construct your sales presentation in a way that your client draws their own stupidity inference:

Without explicitly stating it, it’s completely acceptable to make your prospect think: “I would be stupid if I didn’t buy this right now.

Apple does this brilliantly. By setting up their products as brilliant innovations of genius (and by setting up “the other guys” as a foil) it makes it very clear who the hip buyers should emulate. They do this pretty consistently in their various marketing efforts and particularly in this series of videos…

They’ve done it so brilliantly that Blackberry embarrassment has become a thing. (Note: I’m a Blackberry user. Don’t judge me.)

Apple isn’t the only one but I have to say that they are probably one of the most effective I’ve ever seen. Their marketing not only promotes their products but it tells users that they’d be STUPID to buy something else. (Again, they never do this explicitly… and that’s the beauty of this method).

As business owners, many of us approach a potential sale (i.e. when we make a sales presentation or when we write a sales letter) and we try to sell with the minimum amount of selling. We try to close the deal with as little sales effort as possible. So rather than building deep sales tactics into everything we do, we simply slap a thin coat of selling on everything and then wonder why no one is buying. But if you want to tip the Scales of Purchase in your favor, one of the ways you can do this is to make your prospect feel stupid about not purchasing your product and about even considering purchasing anything else.

The way to do this is to consider all of the possible sales outcomes and to overwhelmingly point them in the direction of buying now while setting up a disdain for any other option.

The usual sales outcomes are…

  1. Buying now (awesome!)
  2. Delaying the purchase
  3. Buying from someone else
  4. Buying an alternate solution (i.e. a substitute solution from an indirect competitor).
  5. Putting up with the problem

To help increase the likelihood of closing the sale, your sales efforts should make the potential buyer think “I’d be stupid for not buying now!” by establishing the buy now option as the best option and every other option as a terrible choice.

Here are some ways to “make your prospects feel stupid”…

  • Overwhelm them with value. (By the way, have you read my primer on value? It’s a must-read if you want to sell more.)
  • Sell with the Chain of Agreement.
  • Learn to think that objections are awesome and masterfully handle every objection a potential customer offers up.
  • Stir up a sense of urgency.
  • Highlight the cost of not acting right now and put that cost in terms that your clients can understand.
  • Increase the scarcity of the your solution. (This one is tricky because a lot of businesses use a false sense of scarcity).
  • Make it INSANELY easy to buy — as few hoops as possible.
  • Overwhelm them with testimonials of other people who are completely happy.
  • Set up all other choices as a foolish foil against buying now.

Note: I want to be absolutely clear here! I would never advise that you belittle your prospect or actually make them feel stupid. However, you can sell more by selling so effectively that your prospect thinks “I would be stupid not to buy this right now!”

Published by Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and other books.

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