Nobody likes being sold at. As soon as an ad or a salesperson comes at us with a “buy now” message, our natural knee-jerk reaction is “no thanks”.
We’re marketed to so much nowadays with messages being volleyed at us all over the shop. On TV, radio, on billboards, through social media, on websites, in search results – it pulls us in all kinds of mental directions. We’ve had no choice but to become numb to it; it would just be too overwhelming to pay attention to it all. It’s like capitalism doesn’t know where to stop!
Now there’s my own inner cynic showing. I learnt from the best – my mum could give Diogenes a run for his money. If he’d had any.
Every purchase begins with a healthy dose of scepticism, so pushy sales messages with no self-awareness tend to drive people away. And some sort of online copy is often the first chance buyers get to form an impression of you, so saying the wrong things can immediately make them hesitant to buy!
Whether you’re selling to a B2B or a B2C crowd, we all come across the same sorts of objections – regardless of whether the person saying “no” is thinking of the company’s position or their own. So let’s take a look at how companies of all sorts can overcome buying resistance through their copy.
The Prep Work
1. Do Your Market Research!
The best marketing starts with solid market research. Survey customers and prospects about their previously/currently held concerns about working together. What is holding them back, or held them back before buying? Are there any particular recurring themes among these points of contention?
Keep a note of all pre-sale concerns and reasons why people have said yay or nay in the past. Listen carefully to this data. What things tend to tip the scales in your favour and what sends prospects scurrying for the hills?
You may also wish to ask your social media followers or email subscribers for their thoughts on a hypothetical question – “if you were to need (whatever you offer) now, would you approach us to help? If not, why would you choose another provider? Might you put it off or try and make do in-house?”.
Before you start crafting any copy, you need to fundamentally understand the person you’re writing to. Once you know why people are sceptical, you’ll be able to address those concerns in your copy.
2. The Age-Old Price Objection
We can’t talk about sales resistance without covering one of the biggest reasons prospects object to a sale – cost. From our perspective as the seller, we need to realise that price objections can mean a lot of different things, and aren’t always a hard “no”.
If someone simply can’t afford you, there’s not a lot either of you can do about it – you’ve just got to leave the door open for them to return if things change. Similarly they may just need to prioritise their budget elsewhere for the time being – perfectly reasonable.
However if they’re unconvinced that your offer would live up to the price tag, question why that might be. Look at it with your market research hat on – where might you be under-selling yourself? How are you currently explaining your offer – through copy or verbally? Make a note of any hidden benefits that may not be immediately apparent to potential buyers and include that in your sales text.
Getting Down to Business
3. Honesty and Openness Above All Else
As marketing becomes more and more digital, interaction and engagement have become the name of the game. Companies want engagement with prospects and people want to be spoken to like real people – two concepts that align quite nicely. As such, companies need to be seen as authentic, down to earth, and honest.
Address your audience’s main perceived concerns openly in your copy; showing you understand your audience will instantly paint you as a company who respects and listens to customer concerns. Most reassuring.
You can even admit that you know the reader may be initially sceptical. Scepticism is a natural part of selling, so don’t deny it! Shining a direct light on the most common doubts gives you a chance to tackle them head on.
The initial temptation when writing copy might be to try to appeal to everyone. You may feel the urge to downplay the kinds of work you don’t cover or to avoid mention of your more niche specialisms. But being perfectly upfront about your particular corner of the market doesn’t necessarily sound a death-knell for your company – far from it.
When you clarify the things you do do and separate them from the things you don’t, you effectively qualify customers who fit that niche whilst informing those who need something different that they might want to look elsewhere.
There’s so much fine print and “but wait, there’s more”-ing in marketing nowadays, it’s no wonder we’re so jaded by it all. When you’re frank about any potential negatives, you prove that honesty means a lot to you – even if it’s to your own detriment.
4. Get Them Thinking About a Hypothetical Future
Nobody wants to do the wrong thing. The easy way to capitalise on this is by getting the reader to ask “could I afford not to take the offer?”. You could even take things a step further and ask “if you bought (your product or service) today, would you be better off in 6 months? 12 months? How would you look back on today if you hadn’t acted now?”
This particular approach does make me feel a bit icky personally, but it does work well to get the reader psychologically attuned to the possibility of a “yes”. But if this makes you cringe too, you can just as readily use descriptive, visual language to paint a vivid yet realistic picture of life with your product or service in it, and contrast how much easier things could be compared to today.
5. Let Social Proof Do the Heavy Lifting
Never run with scissors or adjectives! One thing that us copywriters wrinkle our noses at is claims that your company is “hardworking” or “trustworthy” – aren’t you supposed to be? Similarly there’s the use of absolutes in sales copy: “we’re the best in the industry”, “the most reputable”, “the fastest”.
Without proof, these are just empty claims. It’s better practice – in my view – to provide testimonials and case studies that prove these qualities rather than merely throwing them out there. Why? Because of a little thing called “social proof”.
We’re very social creatures at heart. When we’re uncertain we have a habit of subconsciously looking to others for guidance with a view of imitating their actions – a phenomenon called “normative social influence”.
To start making the most of this as a marketer, you need to get into the habit of asking every happy customer for a testimonial, preferably while they’re still in the “honeymoon phase” after a purchase. You could even automate it. Collect these testimonials, publish them, share them on social media – really wear them as a badge of honour.
Testimonials can also be used to demonstrate your range. When presented with an offer, people sometimes make assumptions like “my business is too small for what you offer” or “that’ll never work for someone in my industry”. These concerns can be addressed by publishing recommendations from all kinds of clients, evidencing that your solution works for lots of different people/companies. Sure, you can highlight testimonials from your main target audience, but don’t shy away from throwing a few fun outliers in there too to show your full capability.
6. Teach Them Something
Being honest and generous is a great strategy in modern marketing – as is proving your worth. You can easily do both by providing a free tip or piece of advice for the reader to take away today. When you do a good job of market research, you give yourself a better chance of doling out truly valuable tips that address a genuine client need without giving too much away.
If it’s something that makes their lives easier, more efficient, or helps them complete a task they struggle with, they’re likely to think of you when they implement the advice. This keeps you mentally front and centre should they wish to outsource the task or seek further advice from an expert.