Cognitive Bias 11 out of 25: Simple, Pain-Avoiding Psychological Denial

We’ve all heard of denial and its effects on people. Denial is where you refuse to believe something as the truth. Most of the time we see denial take hold of people that are stubborn and unwilling to change. Some more common examples of denial include loss, tragedy, addiction, problems, and general changing of old ways. Most people don’t think of denial destroying businesses. Denial can be wildly detrimental for business. It’s something that businesses salespeople face on a daily basis. Personally, I see denial the most when it comes to changing business practices. Learning how to breakthrough to clients to overcome denial can get you to increase your close rate with new business and overall customer acquisition rates.

Understanding how denial can have a death grip on your business and you is a great first step. Denial happens because some people don’t like to accept the pain they’re feeling. Your brain sometimes thinks its best to avoid pain completely instead of facing it; however, if you never face the pain you can never move on and grow. Once you know where it occurs you can start to work through it. I see denial kill business on two different levels.

  1. With the business.
  2. With the customer.

The Business

“We’ve always done it this way.” -Common last words of any dying business.

Denial might be one of the deadliest things a business can face. It’s the old adage of we’ve always done it this way. Denial derives from fear. Mainly fear of change. It might be a business owner that’s too stubborn to adapt with today’s society or to the new age of sales. If you’re unsure what the new age of sales is then check out my post on it here. Maybe it’s a manager that’s scared to doing anything different because they were once successful. Or it might even be a salesperson or sales team that’s hesitant towards new tactics and strategies. Whatever the case may be you’ve got to accept change with open arms.

Denial is what controls this ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mentality. It’s the belief that nothing is wrong. There’s a lack of introspection and self development when denial is setting in.

If you’re not growing you’re dying. A never settle mentality is what sets apart the greats from the mediocre. If there’s anyone on your team that’s alright with always being mediocre they may be the roadblock with your business’s growth and revenue. Whoever is causing the roadblock in progress needs to make a change and fast. If there’s an refusal to change the best would be to ultimately move on.

I’ve found the biggest reason people resist change is that they don’t know the true importance of why the change is necessary. They let their internal fears petrify them so much that they become paralyzed along with all their success. You’ve got to make it your mission to 100% understand each and every change or to break it down so each employee does. Questions always help people understand more in depth. That’s what I did to get my team on board with my changes. I highly recommend letting team members and employees ask as many questions as it takes till they fully understand why. Sometimes it may get frustrating but the results are well worth the headaches. If there’s a lack of questions, I would worry about that. That either shows lack of understanding, fear of asking questions, or resistance to the changes. Get questions kick started by pulling them out of people or starting off with some that you initially had.

People fear failing from the change but if you never change you’re guaranteed to fail but at a slower pace. I guess that’s up to you to determine if you’d rather die a slow painful death or not…

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To me, not trying is completely unacceptable. You’ve got to let your internal motivation and fire drive you to want to continuously do better. It starts at the top and trickles down. So hopefully the people at the top understand how important change is and aren’t in denial. I can go on all day about how and what ways that you and your business need to change. For now, this post is primarily focused on denial and seeing the issue in the first place.

The Customer

“We’re happy with our current provider.” -Common phrase that kills sales cycles.

Talk about stopping a salesperson dead in their tracks. Only some of the more skillful salespeople are trained well enough to overcome this.

Denial can even take hold of your customers! It makes sense because if people on your team fear change you can bet that potential customers fear it as well. The key of this game is to grab the client’s attention and put their fears at ease.

You’ll be able to grab their attention by perfecting a solid pitch. Time is valuable. Show your client how time with you will not be wasted but instead benefit them. No matter what they tell you, no one is perfect. So if they’re happy with their current provider that’s fine but they have to be unhappy about something. I mean come on no one’s perfect… right?

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I stand corrected… where are those Lebron fans at?? 😉

Overcoming your client’s denial is tougher than overcoming your own but once you get the hang of it, it’s like riding a bike. First, you’ve got to have a “what’s in it for the customer” approach. Why would they take time out of their busy day to listen to what you have to say? What’s your competitive advantage? If you don’t know you’ve got to start there and be able to explain that to a customer in under 10 seconds. This pitch can be used to initially grab the attention.

Second, you’ll need to figure out the pain points aka what problem(s) they’re having. Essentially this step is you trying to pull your client away from their denial. Some customers are loyal even if their providers suck and not helping them at all. They don’t want to go back on their word. Although this is chivalrous this is where their business can fail. You’ve got to get them to understand that a current provider needs to continue to earn their business. Nothing is set in stone.

Remember that no matter what no one is perfect. If there’s no issue then you’ve got nothing to sell them and can move on to the next customer quicker. This step can be done by asking a few simple questions. It’s important to tailor your questions around the solutions you can provide. Here’s a couple of great examples:

  • “What’s the number one issue you or your business is experiencing?”
  • “What’s the one thing about _______ that can improve?”
  • “If you had to pick something what would it be?” Great question if they try and blow you off.

If you want more examples check out my post on the best questions to ask your customers.

Third, after finding the pain you present your solution in a way that can solve their problems, save them time/money, and increase sales or profitability. Those are generally what’s important to your clients. What this is doing is showing them how even though they have a good situation you can improve it to being a great situation. Sometimes your customers are used to things not working properly and that’s their normal. Show them what they’re missing out on and how you can solve their problem and that’s how you get the sale.

While these three steps might not get you an instant sale it’ll increase your chances of getting your client’s attention and more of their time. As a salesperson, sometimes you’re not selling your product or service but instead an appointment. That’s super important to understand.

Pulling your customer out of denial can be the difference of you gaining their business or not. Find a way to increase their thinking and mindset and you’ll see your performance increase. Don’t let denial destroy you, your business, or your customer acquisition. It’s costing you too much to let this stranglehold your success! Not only that but you’ll be able to celebrate like Zoidberg…

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What could be better than that???

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Be great,

Cody Cameron