Whether you are a sales executive, dealmaker, VP Sales, or CEO of your company, it’s fair to say that you are constantly thinking of strategies to more easily sell your product or service. This can be everything from digital marketing campaign, adopting a certain type of persuasive language or pitch that a competitor has successfully leveraged.
That said, I want to spend some time discussing a certain sales strategy that has been relied on in many different scenarios. It is called Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (“FUD”). It may be easy to think of FUD as the “anti-sales strategy,” as it takes a more negative or pessimistic tone during the sales process. Nonetheless, it can be an important tool in your sales arsenal and one that you and your colleagues should consider.
Tracing its origins back to the 1920s, FUD capitalizes on humans’ sense of fear and concern about the future. Rather than speaking about how great your product or service is and how much value it will create in prospects’ lives, you take the opposite approach. Leveraging FUD means that you are trying to dissuade customers or prospects from buying competing products or solutions. To do this, you are providing information or data that triggers those feelings of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. The thinking goes that after you present that discouraging data, the prospect will be more likely to become one of your customers, as your product or service is “less bad” than the others.
The most obvious application of FUD is pointing out the downfalls in your competitors’ products. One way to leverage FUD is to bring prospects’ attention to problems that competitors’ products have. For instance, you can argue that your competitors’ software is not reliable. It may contain bugs that create even more headaches in your prospects’ lives.
Often, FUD in this offensive sense comes down to reliability. You signal that competitors, for as much as they may claim to be, simply do not produce reliable products or services. They may not be delivered or released as expected. Even worse, the companies themselves may have operational problems, which shows up in that product or service. After identifying these flaws, the natural thought process in your customers is that your company surely must be more reliable, making them more likely to purchase from you.
Another form of FUD, however, comes by focusing on your company. Essentially, here you are trying to extract that feeling of “fear of missing out.” For instance, you explain to a prospect that your prices will be going up or that support for an older piece of software will be ending soon. You can also trigger this in a more positive sense by highlighting huge customer demand, showing a large number of people who are purchasing a limited-time-only product.
While you can go many different directions here, FUD comes down to highlighting the risks and uncertainties that prospects make when evaluating a purchase. In the customers’ eyes, it is all too easy to focus on the benefits of that product or service they want to buy. FUD takes the opposite approach, making these fears, uncertainties, and doubts all too real.
The goal isn’t simply to highlight those feelings. Instead, it is to drive customer behavior to purchase from your company. It shows that your product or service is less risky, more reliable, and will clear up much of the uncertainty that currently underlies their purchase.
It isn’t being negative for the sake of being negative. Rather, it is a sales tactic that takes a different approach to win customers’ hearts and minds. Because your competitors are likely relying on the more positive or beneficial approach to converting prospects, FUD can provide your company with a differentiated and effective sales strategy.
The Power of FUD
In sum, FUD can be a wild card. A FUD-based sales strategy can be a great way to show off your reliability versus your rivals. In effect, you are highlighting certain aspects of your business (and at times, your rivals’ businesses) that your prospect may not have heard. You should still use your Unique Value or Selling Proposition to showcase your unique tangible value, but FUD can be a great supporter.
Even though it does receive some criticism for being harsh and overly negative, I encourage you to try it out, but be gentle and don’t make false or inaccurate statements of your competition. Launch some little experiments and iterate as necessary. Doing so, you will quickly start to see the power and effectiveness of FUD.