Let’s face it: we’re all barraged by marketing, brand impressions, and attempts to separate us from our money – pretty much constantly. We’re practically immune to high-pressure sales tactics, and we no longer believe the QVC hosts when they tell us to “Hurry. Time is running out.”
But we’re business owners. We have goods and services to market. How can we appeal to prospective customers without looking like we’re trying too hard? The answer is reverse psychology. When customers expect to be pressured or misled, the antidote is honesty. Be honest, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how well you’re received, especially if you follow these tips:
- Use the Inoculation Effect. William McGuire developed the theory of the Inoculation Effect based on the way our bodies develop resistance to disease after exposure. It turns out the same thing is true of repeated efforts to sell us something. We become immune to sales tactics. How do you use this effect to your advantage? Point out your competition’s sales tactics. You’ll make comparison shoppers hyper aware of the sales pitches to come, and you’ll appear the sound choice by comparison.
- Explain your point of difference. If you begin by talking about the way everyone else in the business does it, then you’re positioning yourself to stand out. For example, if you run a cleaning company and the standard practice is to include a fee for cleaning supplies in any quote, explain that you only charge clients for the products you actually use. Again, if your prospect gets quotes from other companies and hears “it’s all included,” then they’re primed to think “I’m overpaying for products I don’t use.”
- Don’t offer more; offer less! It seems like everyone’s gone the a la carte route, which means there’s a staggering array of choices. Rather than inducing analysis paralysis in your clients, offer them three (no more, no less) excellent choices. They’ll still feel like they’re in control, but they won’t feel overwhelmed.
- Give ‘em an easy out. We get used to a “sell at all costs” mentality, so if we hear a sales person who’s ready to walk away – leaving the decision in our hands – we’re taken by surprise. As it turns out, relieving your client of the obligation to buy doesn’t negatively affect your close rate, and the clients who do buy feel better about the sale. They’re less likely to suffer from buyer’s remorse since they weren’t pressured into their decision.
- Use the 1-10 rating system, but with a new spin! After I make my pitch, I ask prospects to rate how they feel about my service. They typically throw out a number in the high middle – a 6 or 7. Rather than telling them why I’m a 10 (which is what they expect,) I tell them I’m surprised, that I figured they’d be a 2 or 3. What happens is magic. They start explaining why I’m so much better than a 3. They list my attributes, and before you know it, they’ve talked themselves into being a 9, and they’re ready to sign on the dotted line. I just sit back and let it happen.
The key to using reverse psychology effectively is honesty. You’re not going to sell jaded consumers by pulling the same old marketing tricks. You have to go with something novel, refreshing, and unusual: the truth.