How to Overcome Your Buyer’s Fear of Change

June 26, 2014

Insight Demand CEO Michael Harris explains how salespeople can utilize insight scenarios to help buyers realize that change isn’t what they should fear — it’s status quo.

Editor’s note: This is an adapted excerpt of a previously conducted podcast with Michael Harris. Click here for the full interview.
The fear of change can be one of the biggest barriers to customer buy-in. To take on risk, not only does the buyer need to think a decision right, it also has to feel right. After all, even if a buyer is convinced of a product value from a rational perspective, the bigger question is often whether they’re willing to go against their gut.
Insight Demand CEO Michael Harris — the author of the new book Insight Selling: Sell Value and Differentiate Your Product with Insight Scenarios — recently experienced this scenario for himself.
As a highly rational thinker and decision-maker, Harris thought the process of choosing the right school for his daughter would be relatively simple. He put together an Excel spreadsheet with a matrix of criteria that he thought would help his daughter eventually get into a great university. From there, he figured picking a school would be a relatively straightforward, rational process.
But as Harris discovered, the selection process doesn’t always work out that way.
“None of the schools really spoke to me and my rational decision criteria didn’t work,” Harris explains. “In the end, I picked a school that didn’t have any of the criteria. The school just spoke to me. That really got me thinking about how we make decisions — whether it’s about which B2B software to buy, which school to send our kids to, or which restaurant to go to for dinner. Emotion is unavoidable. It’s part of the human condition.”
That also led Harris to come to the realization that most B2B sales and marketing organizations approach buyer emotion the wrong way. Instead of just fighting buyer emotions with facts and figures (i.e., rationality), Harris argues that businesses should also be countering emotion with emotion.
“Research has shown that emotions don’t get in the way of making rational decisions,” Harris explains. “To the contrary, they’re actually a vital component of making rational decisions.”

How to Respond to Buyer Emotion: Tell Insightful Stories

So, where does that leave B2B companies that typically sell software and solutions that aren’t obvious emotional plays?
Harris suggests fighting the urge to drown prospects in data sheets and product demos, and instead focus on something else: Telling a story that paints the buyer as a hero, or makes the fear of status quo seem more frightening than the fear of change.

Michael Harris“B2B buyers are often making million dollar decisions, so it’s easy for them to become paralyzed by the idea that they’ll lose their job if they make the wrong decision.”

— Michael Harris, CEO at Insight Demand

“To get around that, salespeople need to provide more than just rational arguments for making a purchase. Facts and figures can be helpful, but there needs to be a story that supports them. Otherwise, buyers will focus only on the reasons not to make a change and they’ll be uninspired to act.”
Importantly, Harris says that context is a critical component of great B2B storytelling. The stories you tell have to be relatable to each individual buyer and hit on exactly which emotion is keeping them from moving forward. Without that, you’re leaving it up to the buyer to figure out why they should buy your products or, even worse, why they should care about you at all.

Utilizing Insight Scenarios to Bridge Emotional Gaps

Thanks in part to the exploding popularity of content marketing, the good news is that many B2B organizations have already taken steps to become better storytellers.
The problem, Harris says, is that many B2B “stories” continue to be uninspiring.
“A lot of companies think they already tell stories,” Harris explains. “But when I hear them, they could be a lot better. And there’s nothing worse than telling a story that’s a little bit dull.”
So, how can B2B companies improve their storytelling?
Harris suggests a simple tweak: Instead of crafting generic stories, focus instead on creating and utilizing “insight scenarios” that speak more specifically to each buyer’s fears, hesitations, or objections.
“Look for the biggest gaps in what your customer believes today and what they need to believe to buy your product,” Harris says. “Then, close that gap with a compelling story that combines the best parts of facts and emotion. That will make it memorable and it will make your sales messaging sticky long after a PowerPoint presentation has been forgotten.”
Newsletter signup bottom
Photo by: Justin Jensen


Michael Harris is the CEO at Insight Demand <a href="">Insight Demand</a>. Previously, he was a Business Partner at CustomerCentric Selling.