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  • Writer's pictureDr. Gary Witt

Six Steps to Eliminate Buyer Doubt

Dr. Gary Witt

Marketing Psychology

Also see companion article Make the Sale by Overcoming Their Doubts.

Buyers often have doubts about purchases unless they have bought the same item or service from you before, or the product is the same no matter who the seller is. Doubt, at its core, is not logical at all. It is emotional. I may have a perfectly logical explanation for selling my laptop for $100, but many buyers would still have a vague, emotional unease about buying it, just like they would about buying a Big Mac from a stranger in the park ("I bought two and could only eat one. I'll sell you the other for 50-cents. How about it?")

To overcome buyer doubt, you must focus on both the logical and emotional components creating doubt in the buyer's mind. Here are Five Steps to making the sale by eliminating buyer doubts.

First, determine what doubts your target buyers could have. Look at your store, your product, your sales staff, your location, your price, your promotional materials, and so on -- from the buyer's point of view. Also look at your competitors’ marketing to see if they are calling attention to problems with your product. Is there anything that could raise doubts? Look at your competitors' advertising for negative insinuations. ("A Diehard battery won't leave you stranded in the rain.") Think about your history. Anything there, like a bad press story, which may raise doubts? Brainstorm with your staff. Ask some of your trusted customers. Most important, listen carefully to what potential buyers are saying. Listen for their mental roadblocks.

Second, break down each doubt into the components that created it. For example, if a customer says to you, "I'm afraid this weed cutter won't stand up to hard use," that's a judgment based on what specific observations? Does the handle look flimsy? Does the motor seem too small? Is the plastic housing too thin compared to the competition? Also make sure you understand what he means by his terms, such as “hard use.” The more you understand, the better you can serve your buyer’s needs.

Third, examine your product. Are any of these doubts well-founded? Do you have a better alternative model? Can they be fixed within your cost-price parameters? Make whatever adjustments you can. You can use these adjustments to extoll the virtues of the "NEW and Improved Weed Cutter" in your ads. Hint: If you know you cannot meet your customer’s standards, recommend a brand that will do the job, and where he might find it. You will gain points for honesty with the customer, and gratitude from your competitor. He might even return the favor!

Fourth, write down a simple, declarative sentence to address each component of the doubt. Each sentence should make buyers more comfortable with what they see (for example, if they think the motor is too small, you might write, "The new high-tech motor uses the latest chip technology to create maximum power with minimum weight and size. That could be a nice bonus, couldn’t it?") When you're finished, you'll have a series of persuasive sentences which should cover all the logical reasons for their doubts. You'll find these ideas are useful for your advertising and collateral materials, too.

Fifth, counter the emotional component of their doubt. Remember, even if you tell the buyer everything you just wrote down, she will still have a lingering, unfocused emotional feeling of doubt. Fears are seldom eliminated using logical reasons. You must also knock down that emotional doubt, which exists in a different portion of the brain. It's like finding a rotten onion in your pantry. Once you remove the onion, the smell still remains.

One of the best ways to eliminate an underlying, unfocused emotion, as Sigmund Freud recognized a century ago, is to bring it "into the light." By stating in words what a buyer is feeling, the emotion of doubt is changed into something which is manageable by the seller. Every good salesman knows this trick. ("You're WORRIED about the price, aren't you?" "This little motor makes you NERVOUS, doesn't it?" You're DOUBTFUL about a computer that's only $100, aren't you?") Notice how you should use EMOTION-RELATED words. The key is to put a name to the emotion, and make the buyer think about it by asking a question. Remember, there's a big difference between saying, "You THINK the motor is too small" and "You're WORRIED the motor is too small." Make them think about what they're feeling. They already know what they're thinking.

Sixth, tell a related success story to drive away doubt. Once you bring the emotion "into the light," you can use logic and facts to eliminate it, using the persuasive sentences you've constructed. You can also use emotion to relieve worry by telling a story about another customer of the same gender who had the same doubt, bought it anyway, and reported on her satisfaction.

When telling the story, use details and emotional words so the buyer gets emotionally caught up in the story. Then when there is a happy ending, the buyer feels happy, too. (NOTE: Do not make up stories on the spur of the moment. Create them, write them down, and practice them over and over until you can make the listener feel the worry, then visualize the happy outcome. Blow the story and you blow the sale. Afterwards, you should directly address the emotion again, making sure you've eliminated it. ("Does that take care of your WORRY about the motor?")

Consumer doubts are often forgotten until it is too late. By preparing a careful analysis and response beforehand, you can be prepared to overcome doubt and make the sale.

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