How to Respond to 9 of Your Clients’ Fears

By Tom Hopkins

In all its forms, fear is the greatest enemy you will ever encounter in persuading your clients and making the sell. The toughest part of your job is helping other people admit to and overcome their fears so you can earn the opportunity to do business with them. Fear is what builds those walls of resistance that salespeople so often run into.

You need to know how to climb over or break through those walls if you’re going to travel the road to sales success.

Following are eight common fears you need to help your prospects overcome. When you recognize these fears as barriers to your ability to serve your prospects with excellent service, you’re ready to discover how to dismantle those walls, one brick at a time, thus gaining your prospect’s confidence and trust.

Fear of salespeople

At first, every prospect is afraid of you. Why? You’re a salesperson, and you want something from them — a commitment, their time, or their money. Plus, what you want usually involves some kind of a change on the prospect’s part, and most people are afraid of change, at least to some degree.

Even if you’re selling to someone you already know — a friend, an acquaintance, or even a relative — when you meet that person in the role of a sales professional, certain fears inevitably arise. The only exception may be selling to your parents or grandparents.

Most people, when you first encounter them, show their fear in their body language. They may cross their arms or lean back away from you. In retail settings, they may actually take a small step backward when you approach them on the sales floor. A wise tactic to help overcome this is to warmly invite them to stand or sit beside you while you show them all the good stuff your product does or has.

Fear of failure

The fear of failure is one you’re likely to encounter in your clients because virtually everyone has this fear to some degree. Why? Because everyone has made mistakes, and everyone has regrets. Whether your failure was in choosing the wrong hair color or purchasing a vehicle that wasn’t right for you, you know the frustration of making a mistake.

No one wants to handle a transaction in which the customer may be dissatisfied with the result. Although dissatisfied customers aren’t (and shouldn’t be) the norm, you must go into every presentation with a sharp interest in the who, what, when, where, and why of your client’s needs.

When you’ve satisfied yourself that owning your product or service is in your client’s best interest, then it’s your obligation as the expert to convince her that this decision is truly good for her. Take the time to talk your prospect through every aspect of her decision very carefully, giving her the time she needs to make a choice she’ll be comfortable with.

Fear of owing money

Prospects are tremendously afraid of owing too much money — to you, to your company, to a finance company. Your fee for service is almost always a point of contention with prospective customers — and not just because they’re being stubborn, but because they’re legitimately afraid of paying too much money.

Most people won’t attempt to negotiate with a company about its fees, but as a salesperson your clients don’t see you as an institution. You’re not cold, forbidding concrete walls and walkways. Instead, you’re a warm, flesh‐and‐blood fellow human — and because of this, your clients often try to negotiate with you.

Most people say that quality and service are of the utmost concern, which overcomes their concern about the fee. Your next move is to reiterate everything you will do for them. Again, sell the value of the product you and your company provide.

Fear of being lied to

One common fear in buyers is the fear of being lied to. As a general rule, clients who are afraid of being lied to doubt everything you’re saying about how much they’ll benefit from your product, service, or idea.

When you face a client with this fear, a strong past track record comes into play. Having a long list of happy clients should help you calm this fear. If you’re new and you don’t yet have an established track record, tell your prospect you made a point of choosing your company because it has a great track record.

If you’re doing something entirely new with a new company, new product or service, or new concept, you have to build on the personal integrity and credentials of those involved in the project. For some products, there is a salesperson (you), a technical advisor who reviews technical details of either manufacture or installation of a product, the actual installer, and the after‐market customer service folks.

There is never any reason to lie to a customer. When you’re honest with your customers, they will respect you and give you the benefit of the doubt even if they don’t necessarily care for what you have to say. Honesty and integrity in every selling situation makes you a winner each and every time.

Fear of embarrassment

Many people fear being embarrassed with anyone who can possibly know about the decision if it’s a bad one. Bad decisions make you feel like a child again — insecure and powerless. Because many potential clients have this fear of being embarrassed by a bad decision, they put off making any decision at all.

If you’re selling to more than one decision maker (such as a married couple or business partners), odds are that neither person will want to risk being embarrassed in front of the other. Chances are they’ve disagreed about something in the past and they don’t want to have that uncomfortable situation arise again.

Knowing that this fear can block your sale, your primary goal when working with clients who are afraid of being embarrassed should be to help them feel secure with you. Let them know that they’re not relinquishing total power to you — you’re merely acting on their behalf, providing a product or service for which they have expressed a need.

Fear of the unknown

Fear of the unknown is a common fear in buyers. A lack of understanding of your product or service, or of its value to the prospect’s company, is a reasonable cause for delaying any transaction. National name recognition will dispel some of this fear. But if you work for a local company, join forces with the rest of your company’s sales staff to earn a great local reputation as a competent business with great products. Over the years, a great reputation saves you a bundle of time in the selling business.

Always spend a little extra time on what your product actually does and the benefits it brings when you’re working with a customer who is unaware of your offering — and afraid of the unknown.

Fear of repeating past mistakes

Having a bad past experience generates fear in the hearts of some potential clients. If they’ve used a product or service like yours before, find out what kind of experience it was for them. If they hesitate to tell you, you may assume that their past experience was bad and that you have to overcome a lot more fear than if they’ve never used a product or service like yours before.

Try offering the product or service on a sample or trial basis. Give the prospect the names of your satisfied customers who will give unbiased testimony as to the value of your offering. (Check with those customers first to make sure they don’t mind if you have prospects contact them.)

Fear generated by others

A prospect’s fear also may come from third‐party information. Someone she admires or respects may have told her something negative about your company, about your type of product, or even about another representative of your company.

Either way, that third party stands between you and your prospect like a brick wall until you convince or persuade her that you can help her more than that third party can because you are the expert on your product or service. You’ll have to work hard to earn the prospect’s trust. Enlist the aid of some of your past happy clients as references, if necessary.