The Relationship Between Brand and Risk

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It’s been said time and time again that one of the biggest barriers to a sale is risk. People run from it, especially in the BtoB sector where the consequences of making the wrong decision can have devastating impacts throughout an entire organization, and even on the decision-maker’s reputation and career. Perceived risk is the #1 cause for analysis paralysis.

Asking prospective customers to place their trust in your brand requires them to take a number of risks, and the greater the perceived risk, the longer the sales cycle limps along. If you’re not doing everything you can to minimize, or even eliminate perceived or real risk, it may be impeding your ability to secure new business and retain customers. The fear of making the wrong decision is what prevents most people from change, even when they may be aggravated with their present situation.  Status quo is predictable, stable and familiar, and change involves letting go of what is familiar. And that’s the toughest sale of all. When you’re in sales mode, attempting to influence people to disrupt their status quo and establish a relationship with your organization, consider the following risks you are asking them to assume:

  1. Embarrassment: When people make the wrong decision, partners, co-workers and peers will investigate why and how the decision was made, subsequently exposing incompetence to make future decisions. The worst-case scenario is that the person who made the wrong decision will lose his or her job.
  2. Impact on the customer: When deciding to partner with a new vendor or supplier (you), there are typically concerns of reliability, service quality and follow through. From the decision-maker’s perspective, she’s heard all the promises before and has been burned one too may times. If you don’t perform to expectations, her customers may also suffer which adds yet another layer of risk for consideration.
  3. Impact on productivity: This is one of the few metrics watched by CEO’s like a hawk. If productivity suffers by even a fraction of a percentage from using your product or service, it will have a direct impact on profitability, and that’s a significant problem.
  4. Inability to return to status quo if things don’t work out: Returning to a previous relationship may not always be possible. If it is, it could be quite costly. If it is not, the consequences could be disastrous.
  5. The unknown: People don’t know what they don’t know, and therefore may not know the most important questions to ask to make the most intelligent decision. Hence the thought, “I never saw THAT coming!” when something goes miserably wrong.

If you’ve ever been frustrated by the length of time that it takes buyers to make decisions, it may be because they smell risk and mitigate their personal exposure by involving others in the decision-making process. We all know that decision-by-committee is the fastest route to making the decision to make no decision at all.

The most obvious evidence can be found in real testimonials from real people who have benefitted from your products or services. Not from “Steve O., customer” with no link to other information. Such empty evidence does nothing for the interested, yet nervous and skeptical buyer.

Evidence of performance may also be in the form of factual data, certifications, memberships to trade organizations/associations and patents. You can also address major risks head on in your communications to explain how and why there is minimal risk associated with doing business with your company. You could also do something as simple as having an FAQ section on your site.

The more risk you can eliminate, the easier the decision will be for your prospective customers to move forward into a relationship with your brand.

If you would like to know more about creating evidence of performance to support your brand’s unique selling points, let’s talk.

scott@seroka.com