Overcoming 3 Psychological Barriers to Closing Sales in the Digital Era

May 9, 2018

What are the biggest roadblocks in closing a deal? We’re all familiar with the usual culprits: establishing urgency, gaining a warm intro, competing against lower prices, overly long sales cycle, etc.

While these can be challenging obstacles, you won’t have trouble finding an assortment of proven sales tactics designed to overcome them. (In fact, you’ll find plenty of them on this blog.) On a deeper level, though, there are also a number of psychological factors that tend to derail B2B sales, and because these are more innate and ingrained, they can be much more difficult to surmount.

It’s true: the brain works in mysterious ways. But recognizing some of the underlying cognitive drivers that commonly stall out deals can bring clarity, helping us to alter our approaches and minimize these barriers.

Addressing 3 Common Psychological Barriers in Sales

Decision Fatigue

Here’s an example I often see used to illustrate this phenomenon: You're shopping for cereal at the supermarket, and you become so overwhelmed with the sheer number of options on the shelves that it mentally wears you down. This often leads to hurried or irrational choices. It can also lead to something called decision avoidance.

One landmark research study found that “people who had more choices were often less willing to decide to buy anything at all,” suggesting that “choice, to the extent that it requires greater decision-making among options, can become burdensome and ultimately counterproductive." This is a form of analysis paralysis.

When making a significant B2B purchase decision, the stakes are much greater than choosing a box of cereal for the kiddos, so this effect tends to be heightened in such scenarios.

What Should I Do?

You can’t control the number of options a prospective buyer faces on the open market. But you can control the way you present and deliver information when engaging them. The simpler you make this experience on their end, the better your chances of avoiding paralysis by analysis.

Take unnecessary decisions out of the equation. (President Obama famously would give himself only two suit choices, so as to avoid wasting his time and energy on choosing attire each morning.) Streamline your message and drill down to the bare essentials. Research ahead of time so you can eliminate extraneous questions (instead of asking “Do you need help in this area?” you could say, “I see from your recent LinkedIn post you guys might need some help in this area…”). Use tools like Point Drive to deliver materials in a seamless and structured manner.

The less information you cram into a buyer’s brain, the more clearly they’ll be able to evaluate your offering.

Anticipated Regret

This theory is also referred to as regret aversion, and suggests that people will sometimes stall in making a decision because they (often subconsciously) dread the future remorse of making the wrong choice. Regret is a powerful negative emotion and in cases like this its mere prospect can interfere with our rational thought.

This dynamic comes into play for many everyday decisions, but again, it’s magnified in a B2B purchasing situation because choosing the wrong solution could lead to professional ramifications and emotional strain.

What Should I Do?

The way to overcome anticipated regret is taking every step you can to eliminate the feeling that a buyer will ultimately realize they should’ve gone another direction. And that means positioning your solution as the best one for them, based on their specific circumstances and needs.

Most sellers recognize that it’s bad form to rail on the competition directly during the sales process, but there are ways to subtly cancel out reservations. An account-based approach is helpful here because it enables your sales and marketing teams to develop an acute understanding of the organization you’re pursuing, so you can tailor the pitch and explain why your solution is the exact one for them.

Additionally, social proof carries weight here. When a buyer sees that others with similar needs have done business with you and wound up satisfied, it helps reduce the potential for regret aversion. Case studies, customer reviews, and referrals (especially from someone the individual is already familiar with) can be profoundly impactful.

Lack of Trust

I would posit that this is the No. 1 inhibitor of relationship-building and forward progress in sales. In fact, it’s usually the top barrier in getting a response or starting a conversation in the first place.

When the B2B decision-maker sees you as a stranger operating out of self-interest, gaining sway and influence with them can be extremely difficult. It doesn’t help that salespeople in general carry a negative stereotype in the eyes of some.

Sales pros who can consistently overcome this barrier have a dramatic advantage over the field. But it’s not easy.

What Should I Do?

There are no shortcuts here. Trust is earned, not given. The vital process of building trust begins before you reach out, and continues through the follow-up phase and beyond. It requires taking an earnest interest in the prospect’s pains and needs, and demonstrating this in authentic and genuine ways.

Some good methods for doing so? Establish your credibility through a consistent, interactive, and insight-driven social presence. Do them a favor before ever asking them to do you one (e.g., “I found this great digital guide that might help you solve the CRM issue you referenced recently”). Build a network of strong relationships, LinkedIn connections, and endorsements so that your reputation speaks for itself.

Keep in mind that as difficult as trust is to develop, it is equally easy to break. As long as you take a consultative approach guided by honesty above all, you’ll be on the right track.

A Clearer Path to Closing Deals

Those old inevitable roadblocks will continue to arise along the journey to converting a sale, but by being cognizant of hidden psychological barriers and accounting for them in our sales tactics, we can facilitate a smoother ride with superior outcomes.

For today’s sales pros, an approach designed to overcome these dissonance factors -- simplifying your pitch, minimizing anticipated regret, and building authentic trust -- is a no-brainer.

For more tips to help you develop a routine that checks all of these boxes, download the Tactical Plan for Selling on LinkedIn.