Your potential clients are weighing three things in trying to decide to buy:
Risk — What if you don’t deliver? What if you disappear with the deposit? What if the changes you recommend don’t work?
Change – Use your system, follow your recommendations, or adopt whatever new thing you’re selling as the solution to their problem
Fears – What will happen to them if your changes don’t work? Will their reputation be damaged in some way? Will there be a bigger mess to clean up than there was to start with?
They’re looking for proof that you can do the job you say you can and that it will produce the results you promise.
It’s not that they don’t believe you.
People they trusted in the past stretched the truth (Brian Williams is an unfortunate example). People they relied on let them down. Changes they tried in the past didn’t work out the way they hoped or how the solution provider promised they would.
Then there’s the media’s distorted representation of anyone selling anything and the fact that we all know only a limited amount about the things we purchase.
Buyers want proof that you’re the right solution provider, that your offerings work as promised, and that you’ll help them get the results they want with the least amount of disruption.
7 Types of Proof That Help Potential Clients Say “Yes”
Here are the 7 proof elements that can help you inspire confidence in you from your Suspects. You don’t necessarily need all 7 — some may be more important to your buyers than others.
Fact-Based Proof – You have a point of view…a philosophy, approach, and a set of beliefs…that you operate on. Fact-based proof elements are things like survey results, statistics, and other verifiable evidence that supports your point of view. This is why being an authority requires such focus. You’ve got to stay on top of what’s going on in your industry, in your Suspect’s industry, and in other broad topics. Quoting some reputable source with a big name is like saying “See? It’s not just me who thinks this.”
Third-party Proof – An endorsement from someone with a big reputation would be Third-Party proof. You bask in the reflection of that person’s brand when you get an endorsement. It’s why a book will have an endorsement from a big name person on the front cover. The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval is a Third Party endorsement. Having an article published on Forbes.com is a veiled endorsement because your article was good enough for them so it must be worth reading.
Visual Proof – Most of us are visually influenced to some degree. We land on a website and within 3 seconds we’re gone. We made the decision there’s nothing there we want. Our hand moves away from the dented can of peas and puts the undented can in our cart even though we know the peas in both cans are just as good. Pictures…videos…they’re the easiest elements of visual proof but even your website’s layout will impact buyer confidence. And if you’re the face of your brand, your appearance is part visual proof. Visual proof not only provides visible evidence of your claims but in the case of videos, webinars, and livecasts it can help people get a feel for what working with you would be like. My mentor, Mike Koenigs, is constantly asking those of us in his programs to send him things like screen shots of contracts or checks. He knows that Visual Proof trumps anything he can say. So if at all possible, take one type of proof and see if you can also turn it into Visual Proof.
Results-Based Proof – This is at the heart of what buyers want to know: what results have you produced…what outcomes did your clients have? Be very careful about the claims you make.
Social Proof – From testimonials to case studies to reviews on ratings sites like Yelp, people put more stock in what other individuals say than in what you the entrepreneur say. Yes, buyers know there are fake reviews on sites but they still check them and they are still influenced by them.
The Suspect is looking for themselves in who you’ve served. If they’re a micro business have you served other micros? If they’re a restaurant do you have testimonials from other restaurant owners?
They may see you’ve helped clients achieve great results but if your proof elements don’t help them recognize they could have similar results with you then they won’t move forward.
The more detail you can provide, the more powerful a piece of social proof becomes. Pictures, full names, websites, etc. all help Social Proof be more powerful.
Achievement Proof – Where Results Proof is an example of what your clients have achieved, Achievement Proof is what YOU’VE achieved. For example, I created a sales kit that sold $400,000 worth of new business in the first four months it was used by the client. That’s Results Proof. The kit then won a Silver Prize in the 2007 International Davey Awards. That’s Achievement Proof. Achievement Proof is particularly important if your work involves a role model for others in some way. My physical therapist is 60 and she looks fantastic. I look at her and know that’s a great achievement so when she gives me advice I take it. I copy-chiefed a new copywriter at the agency I worked for and her first press release landed on the front page of Forbes.com. That’s quite an achievement and something that could lead a potential client to think, “If she did that for THEM, she could do something like it for ME.”
Credential Proof – Some professions require credentials – doctors, attorneys, etc. and some don’t (like coaches for example). Credentials can help buyers choose because the credential at least demonstrates some level of education has been obtained. It’s important to be at the top of your game, but consider whether a credential is truly going to help differentiate you or help your buyers recognize you as an authority. If you have a certificate, help potential clients recognize how the certificate adds value to your background.
Your sales process – from the steps you take to build awareness right through to service delivery and after-sale relationship building – must be designed to help the buyer make the multitude of decisions necessary at each point in their buying process. Keep in mind that your buyers are just like you when YOU’RE the buyer. They’re nervous because buying is risky. They want to believe your claims are true, so help them recognize you as the best solution provider for them by using a variety of proof elements. They’ll be more confident and will take action faster.