I got a call from a person who said she saved my card for the past few years (very flattering) and she believed she was finally ready to work privately with me.
But she gave me confusing signals throughout the call.
I could tell we wouldn’t fit well together but since what she needed was obvious to me I gave her what I thought was a perfect strategy to separate herself from the competition and stand out as the clear authority in her industry segment.
The line went silent for a few seconds.
“Wow. That’s a great idea,” she said quietly.
“But I can’t do it,” she went on to say. “Nobody else in my industry is doing anything like that. And if I did it they’d just copy me.”
I’ve thought about that call off and on over the past few weeks; and the conclusion I’ve come to is, she was torn between playing to win and playing not to lose.
This happens as we build a business that finances our lives, the lives of our vendors, and that allows us to support causes we care about. The better and more successful we become the more afraid we can become of losing what we’ve worked so hard for.
But there are also people who are naturally play-not-to-lose people.
They’re the people referred to as “prevention focused” and tend to be risk-averse. These are people who are analytical, problem solvers. They’re not wrong or bad or weak. They’re just different and they have a different perspective on taking a chance.
And working with you is risky.
Play not to lose people need you to answer the “yes, but” questions they have in their heads.
Of course they may not actually ask them out loud.
Imagine them thinking “Yes, but…”
- Will it really work?
- Is it worth the hassle of changing?
- Will it be too hard to implement?
- I haven’t heard of this before so how can it be good?
And on and on….
To help your client decide to buy, you’ve got to understand her motivations and what she’s got at risk by saying “yes” to you. What does she want to gain (more clients maybe) and what does she not want to lose (free time…she doesn’t want to work more than she already is now).
Then use that knowledge to inform your messaging so you’re effectively emphasizing what she’ll gain with what she won’t lose.
If you’ve got a Suspect who is afraid of losing control then emphasize they’ll still be able to __________ because you’re going to __________________.
Think about the Suspect you met with recently and see if anything they said or did could tell you if they’re Promotion Focused (play to win) or Prevention Focused. Now, think about your messaging. Is it completely aspirational? Full of possibilities?
Think about your Prime Suspects. Do they tend to be the type of people who are naturally afraid of losing? If so, don’t try to change them. Instead, think about adding some practical information in your messaging.
Admit there will be some challenges but talk about your track record and proprietary process. Talk about how your process is proven to help people just like them. Give examples.
Be prepared with some risk reduction strategies (like “try before you buy”, demos, or a guarantee or anything else that will truly lower their risk and make them feel more confident to move forward.
If you’re Prime Suspect is in a hierarchical organization (meaning they report to someone), or you’re selling to a couple, or anyone who is going to rely on others in the buying decision, then you can be sure there’s going to be some element of fear of loss at play here. You have to do what you can to make them feel confident and your messsaging needs to speak to the others in the buying process.
Brand building helps here because having a powerful reputation instills confidence in working with you.
Your Suspects want the outcome you deliver but if you can’t help them get passed their concerns then you can’t be surprised if they turn you down and choose a competitor they feel safer with.
And think about how you may be getting stuck in playing-not-to-lose land too. Then remember who you are — a visionary leader and entrepreneur who makes a massive impact in the lives of those you serve and who needs to reach even more people.