Why Burning Bridges Might Be a Better Sales Strategy than Building Them

There are few businesses I work with today that don’t have as one of their goals, “challenge the customer’s comfort zone.”

Consider your own business for a minute: is it more beneficial to you for your customer to remain in her comfort zone? or to be pushed beyond her comfort zone?

Then consider your customer and the results you desire for him: is it more benefit to your customers for him to remain in his comfort zone? or to push beyond his comfort zone?

If your customer is comfortable buying from chain stores and you sell handmade bath & body products, you need to make them a little uncomfortable to change her behavior for both your benefit & hers. If your customer is comfortable with his daily routines but desires a big lifestyle change and you’re his life coach, you need to make him uncomfortable to change his routines thereby achieving his desires for both your benefit & his. If your customer is comfortable communicating with her friends using the phone but you want to disrupt & improve her communication with a brand new technology, you need to make her uncomfortable with the limitations of her current MO for both your benefit & hers.

Yet given the current media & marketing trends, you probably spend more time placating potential customers than confronting their comfort zones.

You are trying to build bridges when burning them may be the best strategy.

Your customers are, by nature, explorers. They’re seeking something. It might have started with a Google search. It might have been an interesting Facebook thread. It might have been a personal conversation over coffee. But they have sought out… something. They’re looking for transformation — even a tiny one.

They may not be able to identify their most pressing needs. They may not know what they’re looking for. But they have that nagging desire to learn more. And that’s where you come in.

Customers trust business owners that have something to teach. When you can give your customer a new way of seeing even the tiniest corner of her world, you are immediately trustworthy. But new ways of seeing don’t come from being comfortable, they come from confrontation.

Today’s most powerful sales people are challengers:

“They’ve got a provocative point of view that can upend a customer’s current practices, and they’re not afraid to push customers outside their comfort zone.” — Matt Dixon, The End of Solution Sales

Now, there are two things I know about you:
1) You got into business to challenge the status quo (your own, your customer’s, the world’s, etc…)
2) You are adverse to the over-the-top, in-your-face sales & marketing techniques of yesteryear.

So I also know that the idea of “confronting” your customer both resonates and feels a little, well, dangerous. Ya wanna push them… just not too hard.

Okay, okay. I get that.

Here’s the problem: your customers are on to your “not gonna push ‘em too hard” ways.

Your relationship building techniques – questions, conversations, endless free teleclasses, etc… – aren’t mysterious anymore. People know you’re buttering them up. Sure, they’ll participate. Sure, they’ll engage. But are you really setting them up for a sale or allowing them more time to stew on the inevitable “no, thanks?”

The best salespeople are still empathic, clued into needs, and sensitive to individual perspectives but, instead of following the customer’s lead, they take the reins and deliver an insight that moves the customer to action.

What do you know about your audience – their habits, their failures, their opportunities – that even they don’t know? Supplying that information creates instant fans and eager customers.

Here’s the framework for creating a challenging sales process:

1. Identify a core belief or operating principle that your customer has and challenge it.

Example: Tara Mohr knew women weren’t reaching their full potential in life & business because they were “playing small.” They were excusing themselves from big opportunities or failing to take risks. So that’s how she framed her coaching program, Playing Big. Tara used her intimate knowledge of the differences between women who play small & women who play big to challenge the operating principles of the former.

2. Use your insight as an outsider or expert to demonstrate a new idea.

Example: When I talk to makers about their frustrations with pricing, I make sure to point out that I’m not a maker. No, I’m a customer. I’m one of the people happy to pay twice as much as what they’re charging. That fosters trust & credibility for my ideas.

3. Bring in data or case studies that prove your position.

Example: Copyblogger Media shares multiple insights into well-designed sales pages on the Premise landing page. Instead of just sharing features, the sales page actually tells customers things they may not know about constructing a sales page that works. Take this to the next level by sharing real results from your clients or customers in their own words.

4. Coach your customers on how to buy.

Example: LKR Social Media Marketer explains why – right on the sales page – it’s better to buy a monthly subscription to a community than it is to buy individual solutions to problems that will quickly go out of date. Knowing the solution might be intimidating to customers, Laura cut straight through why her plan is the best.

5. Tailor that position to the person you’re talking with.

Example: Writer extraordinaire, Kelly Diels, creates a separate landing page on her site for every guest post she writes. She understands that different audiences, different types of customers, have different needs, points of reference, and interests. Hone in on exactly what’s important to who you’re talking to.

Your customers can see right through your efforts to build relationships with them – genuine though they might be. We are all in some sort of business and your tactics for creating buy-in are becoming tired.

Instead of trying to make the sale feel warm & fuzzy, allow your customers to trust in the fact that you’re confident & in control. Take the lead with new insights and fresh perspectives.

Will you accept the challenge?

 

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25 comments on “Why Burning Bridges Might Be a Better Sales Strategy than Building Them

  1. The hard part is when the excitement of the change the customer is seeking wears off and they feel more uncomfortable than hopeful. Since I provide on-going support as well as help with the initial changes, I sometimes see customers pull back. All they know is, “I’m not comfortable here.” — Sometimes they’re open to additional support to integrate and move forward, and sometimes they just want to go back to something more comfortable. When people are truly uncomfortable it’s hard for them to keep communication open, so a customer may pull back and lose access to the very input that can help them tweak and tailor things into something that truly suits them at the exact same point they most need help from someone who can see the situation and options from outside their own DIS-comfort zone.

    • tara gentile says:

      Megan, I think you’re right on. However, if you’re regularly getting customers who discover they’re not ready for change, you’re probably targeting the wrong kind of customers. It has been very worth it for me to find exactly the kind of people who are ready for nothing less than “what they really want.”

      Many people pay lip service to change, to transformation, to challenge – even going so far as purchasing a solution – but don’t fully embrace what you’ve sold them. Happier customers & happier makers/providers come from knowing who’s really in it to win it, so to speak. They’ll be the ones that work just as hard as you do, never ask for refunds, never make odd demands at odd hours of the night, etc…

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Felicia Holman says:

    This is soooo timely for me, right now…I’m currently in my list-building phase and as a service-industry veteran (fitness instruction/operations mgmt/performance), marketing my coaching/consulting services SANS ‘cheese’ is uber-important to me!

    Thanks for another great post, Tara :)

  3. This is a brilliant post. As a sales coach for online business women, I teach create a raving fan at every interaction while establishing yourself as the expert. Love this article! Thanks