Here’s an old Jewish joke: “A Galicianer never enjoys his cup of coffee. Why, you ask? Because he likes coffee with two spoons of sugar. So when at home, he uses no sugar to save money. And when somewhere else, he uses four spoons.”
Human beings are always teetering on the edge of indecision.
Our indecision only gets worse the older and more experienced we get. Why? Because we have more experiences to draw upon and more doubts and fears to confront.
Our brains don’t get better with age or more information.
They get into ruts. And that’s the problem.
We all constantly recalibrate our decisions based on our latest headaches and the influences of our past rather than the potential of our future. This happens when you least expect it. For instance, if the last time you tried a new restaurant and were unhappy with the experience, you created an event (failure) for your brain to struggle with.
The next time you go out, your brain will remind you that the last time you tried something new it wasn’t so fun. You might decide to go to a place you already know serves food you like. Your brain will opt for an environment it knows you appreciate rather than risk trying something new and being disappointed again.
However, if the last time you went out you found the experience to have been amazing, you are more likely to try a different new experience in the future. See? This isn’t just true about food; it’s how we run our businesses too. We want to duplicate our successes, not our failures. That’s healthy, but it’s our failures we learn the most from.
The words we fear most are, “I told you so!” In fact, the average person is so afraid of hearing those words that their entire mentality and mindset is based around the fear of hearing them. Rather than do the best thing, or the right thing, we do the thing that is most likely to keep us from having to hear, “I told you so,” especially if we’re the ones chastising ourselves.
We will worry over whether it’s the right thing to advertise in a new publication, or to try a new style of advertisement, or even to hire a new graphic designer – all because we don’t want to be disappointed and hear, “I told you so.
I told you it wouldn’t work out. I told you that you would fail.”
Well, chances are that if you have gotten beyond your skepticism and done some “out of the box” things, you are much more likely to do more of those things – like hire a new staff member or try a different kind of campaign that you’ve been using until now. You have learned that taking risks can pay off very handsomely. But, if the last risk didn’t work – and yet you are still considering it – then the reason you can’t move forward from that point of indecision is because you are scared of your spouse, partner or yourself wagging a finger and chanting, “I told you so!” As the old expression, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” Entrepreneurs and executives constantly have to make decisions, and while they know the right thing to do is to do different things (or the same things in a different way), the phobia of being called out on the carpet (or, for an employee, getting fired) stops them in their tracks from doing what is right.
Your clients also teeter on this edge. They choose to buy from you – or to not buy from you – based on past experiences that you have no knowledge about and that can be totally subconscious. You may be offering a wonderful opportunity to them, yet their past life’s lessons with people less honest and forthcoming then yourself have affected the client’s view of you negatively.
The more ridiculous flip side of this is that after dealing with someone honest, the next time a charlatan comes along, they have an easier time gaining compliance and making a deal – because the honest person who came before them gave the client new hope for humanity.
Absurd, but so true.
How can you boost your chances of making a deal? These often discussed psychological principals can make a major difference: First, use testimonials. When potential clients see that others are happy with your services, they will feel more comfortable trusting you. This is certainly obvious by referral business, or when the new customer knows the people giving the testimonial, either personally or by association (say, someone who works for Google), even if you don’t know the fellow personally.
Second, use authority to gain leverage with your clients and customers. Demonstrate that you have specialized knowledge in the field, either with a book, a university diploma, published articles, or prestigious media mentions and even testimonials from famous people who have used your services. They can be well known in your community even if you don’t know any Hollywood celebrities. A series of free YouTube videos can help you begin moving further up the credibility ladder. This will encourage the buyer to face up to his own resistance and give you the benefit of the doubt.
Third, create a situation where the buyer can’t lose. Payment plans, credit cards, money-back guarantees, guaranteed satisfaction, bonuses or a special offer that makes them essentially see that the greater chance of doing something really stupid lies in inaction, as opposed to taking the action you recommend.
Issamar Ginzberg is a business adviser, marketer, professional speaker and rabbi.