Sunday, 7 December 2014

Brain Friendly Selling Tips #6: Certainty & Credibility

Your customer’s brain likes certainty.  At a deep level the primitive part of their brain links certainty to survival.  100,000 years ago the more certain your environment was, the safer it was.  Uncertainty felt like a threat to survival.  Fast forward 100,000 years to the present day and your customer’s brain is still constantly automatically and unconsciously seeking certainty in preference to experiencing uncertainty.  Our brains are always looking to move away from the discomfort of uncertainty towards the comfort of certainty.

Human beings are creatures of habit.  We follow the same routines, travelling the same way to work each day, sleeping on the same side of the bed, eating the same sort of food, watching the same sort of television programmes day in and day out.  Yes, we also like some variety in our lives but we have a deeper seated need for certainty.

Our affinity with branded goods is linked to a certain degree to the certainty that these branded goods will provide.  We feel comfortable that they will deliver what we are expecting which increases our sense of certainty, leading to the higher psychological levels of comfort that our brain craves so much.

Your customer will want to be as certain as possible that you are a safe and reliable supplier who will deliver on your promises.  The customer may be feeling somewhat insecure, nervous, exposed, concerned or that they are taking a risk when choosing a supplier to work with.  They are feeling uncertain.  You must communicate a strong degree of certainty.

Firstly, it is vitally important that you come across as an experienced, knowledgeable professional who knows what they are taking about.  You must become an expert in your field with exceptional levels of knowledge in your products and services.  You must ooze authority and confidence (but no over-confidence) from every pore of your being.  The customer has to buy you first before they will buy from you.

Secondly your sales pitch must contain certainty and credibility drivers.  Certainty drivers are things that you can use to drive the customer’s level of certainty upwards.  Credibility drivers show the customer that you have done it before and are capable of helping them.  Certainty and credibility are intertwined.  The more confident they are in your credibility the more certain they will feel, and the more likely they are to buy. Examples include:
  • Testimonials from existing customers.  Dr. Robert Cialdini’s research references the power of what he calls “social proof”.  People use the behavior or beliefs of other people to decide how to behave and act themselves.  The more uncertain people feel, the more likely they are to use the behavior of others for guidance.

    In addition, Cialdini found that people are more inclined to follow the lead of people who are most similar to them.  So you may need to develop a series of powerful testimonials that allow you to match them successfully with the customer you are selling.  Large companies need to see testimonials from large companies.  Small companies need to see testimonials from small companies.  If you can match industry then that is even better.  I recently closed a piece of business to provide sales manager coaching and sales training for a large international company.  The training will be delivered in several languages across a number of countries.  Therefore the testimonial I used was from an existing customer where we had worked successfully on that scale of project.

  • Perhaps the most powerful form of testimonial I can recommend is for you to connect the new customer with one of your existing customers directly.  Allow them to talk about you and to meet together without you being present.  The power of this form of testimonial has closed many deals for me.  Sometimes just the fact that you have the confidence to offer to connect them directly with one of your existing customers is enough for the potential customer to feel a sense of certainty.  Even though it is obvious that you are only going to connect then potential customer with a happy and loyal existing customer who will say positive things about you, the transparent nature of the offer to connect them to discuss directly is powerful.

  • Client lists – in addition to specific testimonials prepare a comprehensive list of the sort of organisations you work with.  I know from analysing data from the website I use to promote myself as a keynote speaker that after looking at what topics I speak on, people usually visit my client and testimonial page.  They are looking for certainty.

  • Case studies are basically more in-depth versions of a testimonial.  They need to be short enough to be read by a busy potential client but have enough depth to prove your capability and track record.  Your case studies need to explain the client’s situation, the solution you provided and the results you obtained.  Your client will need to be quoted and featured throughout the case study to build the social proof.

  • Research from a recognized authority that proves the efficacy of your product or service can be a very powerful certainty driver.

  • Guarantees are another way to provide certainty. The all too familiar money back guarantee is a strong certainty driver.  If you don’t deliver the client doesn’t pay.  This also communicates certainty as unless you were certain of your capability you wouldn’t provide the guarantee in the first place.   The marketer Jay Abraham popularised the concept of the “risk reversal”, where the business takes all the risk away from the customer by providing a rock solid, 100% no-quibble money back guarantee.  This has been proven time and time again to grow sales.

  • Endorsements from people who are perceived to be influential or authority figures.  Celebrity endorsements are common place and that is because they work.  My books I have secured endorsements from famous, high profile business people for my books.  For example, multi-millionaire Duncan Bannatyne star of BBC TV’s programme “Dragons’ Den” wrote the forward to my book “Bare Knuckle Negotiating” and multi-billionaire entrepreneur Michael Dell endorsed the book “Bare Knuckle Customer Service” that I wrote with my co-author Chris Norton.  This is good for book sales as the endorsements from these authority figures provide certainty that the books are worth reading.

  • A pilot programme, study or test allows the client to “dip their toe in the water” first before committing fully.  It allows you to prove your capability and minimizes the risk to the client.

Good luck and good selling!

Simon Hazeldine

Simon Hazeldine MSc FinstSMM is an international speaker and consultant in the areas of sales, negotiation, performance leadership and applied neuroscience.

He is the bestselling author of five business books:

  • Neuro-Sell: How Neuroscience Can Power Your Sales Success
  • Bare Knuckle Selling
  • Bare Knuckle Negotiating
  • Bare Knuckle Customer Service
  • The Inner Winner

To learn more about Simon's keynote speeches and other services please visit:

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