Whenever you make a decision, you risk falling into a trap.
The same goes for your customers and prospects.
20 years ago a team of researchers uncovered the ‘Hidden Traps of Decision Making’ that we all fall into at some point.
The research found that “the higher the stakes of your decision, the higher the risk of getting caught in a thinking trap”.
Some of these ‘hidden traps’ are essentially biases – ways of thinking that influence our decisions…
…even if we’re unaware of them.
Every time a potential client or customer encounters your sales message, they’re at risk of falling into one of these traps as a result of their unconscious bias.
The full article outlining all 9 traps is worth checking out on the Harvard Business Review site…
But there are two particular traps that stood out to me, because I see businesses lose potential customers to them all the time.
The weird thing is:
You’d assume one of these two traps would cancel out the other, but that’s not what happens…
The first is the ‘Status Quo Trap’
No, it’s not the risk of waking up dressed head to toe in faded denim singing ‘rocking all over the world’ (uh, ask your parents)…
It’s basically fear.
Specifically: fear of THE UNKNOWN.
This fear is hardwired into us from back in the days when there could be danger around every corner…
Something big and scary with slavering jaws wide open, ready to pounce and make you the lunchtime special.
As the research team of John S. Hammond, Ralph L. Keeney and Howard Raiffa (who I guess wasn’t allowed a middle initial) explain:
The source of the status-quo trap lies deep within our psyches, in our desire to protect our egos from damage.
Breaking from the status quo means taking action, and when we take action, we take responsibility, thus opening ourselves to criticism and to regret.
Not surprisingly, we naturally look for reasons to do nothing. Sticking with the status quo represents, in most cases, the safer course because it puts us at less psychological risk.”
You, me, and all your customers are pretty much stuck with this fear.
No matter how much we evolve, rationalise, or beat our chests and yell “I fear NOTHING!” while bungee-jumping into shark-infested waters, fear of the unknown will always affect our decision making.
It makes us lazy. Complacent. Vulnerable…
Which means you need to show your prospects why choosing the status quo can actually be even MORE dangerous.
Sometimes, inaction is the riskiest action there is – even if it feels safe at the time.
When your prospect is on the fence and considers YOU the risky unknown, and wants to stick with how things are, your messaging needs to do two things:
1 – Reassure them that you (or your product) are nothing to be scared of.
It’s time for your testimonials, social proof and 5-star reviews to come into play. If you offer a guarantee, that can help too.
But the main thing is to demonstrate how others have walked through that door marked ‘UNKNOWN’, and lived to tell the tale. And:
2 – Show them how standing still can get them killed.
Ok, maybe not literally torn to pieces – but indecision can be dangerous in many ways.
If they’re stuck in their comfy zone and getting overtaken by competitors… tell ‘em they’ll get left behind without taking action, fast.
If they’re unsure whether they need to make a change… show ‘em WHY they do, and what happens if they don’t.
If they’re too damn stubborn to admit they need help… turn ‘em away.
It’s surprising how effective making clear you don’t do business with people who aren’t 100% committed to using your product or service can be.
It can help fence-sitters finally make the right decision, and it shuts out the nightmare clients and serial refunders.
However you do it, it’s your messaging’s job to save your ideal customers from tumbling head first into the Status Quo Trap.
Then there’s the ‘Forecasting Trap’
This one’s essentially OVERCONFIDENCE in our own decision making abilities…
Which seems like a problem folks who fear the unknown wouldn’t have, right?
Everyone’s prone to forecasting overconfidently – even the naturally cautious – not because we’re cocky, but because our brains play tricks on us.
As the HBR researchers note:
Even though most of us are not very good at making estimates or forecasts, we actually tend to be overconfident about our accuracy.
That can lead to errors in judgment and, in turn, bad decisions.”
Uh… been there.
As has anyone who’s ever missed a train, re-packed a suitcase, run out of gas, bought MySpace shares or pretty much been stung by anything that seemed like a fast win or an easy task at the time.
While we’re often scaredy-cats when faced with the unknown, many of us are also surprisingly Kanye-level confident about our ability to predict outcomes.
Sure, sometimes these decisions are actually informed by research, data and experience, but not always…
Sometimes it’s just too tempting to believe in what we WANT to happen.
We all do this. Your prospects aren’t idiots…
But they are prone to making overconfident predictions – which may put them at odds with your messaging.
That’s when you need to bring people down to earth by communicating clearly and logically, why your product or service can help them like no other…
And tempering any Trump-like projections about how they’ll manage without it.
To be clear:
This isn’t about manipulating or preying on your ideal customer…
It’s about better understanding a) what their status quo is, and b) where their overconfidence in predicting a future situation might lead them.
Sometimes we really are our own worst enemies. Our biases are like decision making kryptonite.
But if you can rescue the right people from these ‘hidden traps’ in your messaging, you can establish the authority and trust you need to Sell Unique.
If you could use a hand with that, I’m over here.
Could be the best decision you ever make…