In our work, we don’t notice risk—the risks involved in buying our product, using it, relying on it, and so forth—because we’re so close to it. We know what we do and sell, and the (hopefully low) likelihood of something going wrong.

But to a customer, especially a new customer, risk is front and center:

  • What if making a change is worse than not making a change?
  • What if it doesn’t work as advertised (or at all)?
  • What if you can’t deliver on time (or at all)?
  • What if you go out of business?
  • What if you discontinue this product or service?
  • What if we can’t recoup the costs of investing with you?
  • What if my costs go up?
  • What if something goes so wrong with your product or service that I lose my job?

When you first introduce your products and services to new prospects, never forget that you’re introducing risk at the same time. Even a similar product means a change, and people generally don’t like change—even when it’s ultimately for the better.

What’s the best way to mitigate this risk in your customers’ minds? There are several strategies you should consider:

  • Admit that your product or service is not for everyone, while defining who your product or service is Honesty is rare, refreshing, and reassuring.
  • Don’t say things like, “What do I have to do to earn your business?” This reeks of desperation and turns most people off. We salespeople know that sales don’t close all by themselves, but no one likes feeling sold to.
  • Develop a list of frequently asked questions and answers and go through them before you’re asked. Encourage prospective customers to ask all the questions they want.
  • Offer a strong guarantee. (This reverses the risk so that it’s on you, not on your customer.)
  • Prove your case using data, customer testimonials, and repeat business.
  • Offer a small trial size. Consumer marketers have been doing this successfully for 100+ years.
  • Spell out your process so the customer knows what to expect at every stage.
  • Tell the customer he or she can say no at any time, with no hard feelings—and mean it.

All successful salespeople are actually in the business of professional reassurance. When you encounter resistance in the selling process, you can be sure that fear is at the root of it. In selling your product or service, your real job—the one that determines whether you succeed or fail—is to allay your prospect’s fears.