How to win an argument.
When I was in college I took a philosophy and ethics class. We studied subjects, we discussed issues, and we debated topics. At one point the professor jokingly stated that if a candidate or group in a debate could relate the opposing side’s view to causing nuclear war, they would certainly win the debate. My group promptly put together a thread of evidence that suggested copying DVDs for home use would absolutely fund terrorists and undoubtedly lead to a nuclear crisis that had no diplomatic resolution. We won.
As you read the above paragraph you probably instantly realized the insanity of our argument, but it isn’t dissimilar from arguments used by the movie industry. Exaggerated? Yes. Effective? I thought so. You see, we have a notion that ‘Fear Sells’.
We need to stop selling with fear.
So fear is something that requires an immediate response. Fight or Flight anyone? The vast majority of candidates and companies that push fear based communication don’t have a shot at driving immediate action, though. Instead they create a longer sense of dread. A dulling apprehension. What’s that? Anxiety.
A general state of distress. Yep, that’s what we create when we communicate with a negative state. And while we attempt to create immediate action, instead we are more likely creating a long term state of apprehension that may actually be prohibitive to people becoming fans of our brands. The guy advertising that “You must act now or you’ll never get a deal this good” may actually drive people to always wait because they know there will be another deal, but can never tell if the current one is actually the best. Sure, there may be short term sales, but over the long term people don’t naturally drift towards the things that scare them, or the people who do.
How can a brand break the cycle?Become an advisor and build trust. Be the company that provides value, builds trust, and advises your clients on the best ways to move forward. This isn’t easy. It’s easy to pitch fear. It just takes being scarier than the competitor. Providing value takes time, repeated examples of your trustworthiness, and a long term commitment to positive and honest guidance. The sales cycle get’s flipped on it head too. You need to provide value first and THEN sell you product once trust is established. Harder? Yes. Better at creating a strong brand and loyal customers? Absolutely.
How do you provide this value? Start a conversation and be open and honest. Be patient. Answer questions. Don’t be afraid to help and provide value before the sale is closed. In his book Getting Naked: A Business Fable about shedding the three fears that sabotage client loyalty, Patrick Lencioni says “What clients want more than anything is to know that we’re more interested in helping them than we are in maintaining our revenue source.”
It’s time to shed our fear, stop selling fear to our clients, and start building trust to move forward. Who cares if we win the argument?
University of Florida Executive Education