Nothing plays so strongly as the element of fear in any important decision. This is really evident when making any kind of expensive purchase. I had a guy in my house recently hawking a machine that is guaranteed to remove all allergenic and pollutant particles from the air in my home.
I was intrigued with the product, but the only reason he made it in the door was the free mp3 player. What can I say? Mine recently broke and I needed a new one. That being said, I do suffer from allergies, and the product seemed to be a good one. So, I watched in feigned amazement as this self anointed “best in-home sales professional in the U.S.” worked his way through his schtick. All the way asking me questions like, “How important is the health of you and your family?” And, “If you could improve the health of your children, would you?”
Throughout his two hour long presentation, he set me up with these no-brainer questions time after time. And finally, at the end, with all the gusto possible in an individual, he stood up and said, “I’m just gonna go outside and call my boss to let him know the deal is done while you and your wife decide what payment method you would like to use for your new air purification system.”
This was easily the most impetuous attempt at an assumptive close I had ever seen in person. I didn’t know whether to laugh at the guy, or applaud. The presentation was actually quite compelling, but I had no intention of buying and neither did my wife.
He came back in my front door and without missing a beat he says, “So will it be cash or credit?” I said “I’m sorry buddy, but it’s not gonna be either.” To say he was appalled with my answer would be an understatement. All of those setup questions from before were now coming home to roost. He said, “I thought the health of you and your family was important”, “I thought you wanted to protect your children from illness”, and so-on, and so-on.
About 30 minutes later he finally admitted defeat after crossing the line several times questioning my decision making ability and intelligence. I chose to take the high road, and let him air out his frustration over not closing the deal while he gathered all his stuff and left our home.
Later on, after reflecting on it a bit, I was amazed that his entire presentation was based on fear. Fear of getting sick. Fear of my family getting sick. Fear of dying. That’s a powerful pitch if the product is good, and I actually had bought into what it could do. In the end, it was just quite a bit more than I wanted to spend on something like this.
Using fear against consumers is extremely powerful, and is the basis for all selling. The product does not need to be a $5000 air purification machine either. Consider this chain of thoughts: “If I don’t buy those sweet jeans I won’t look cool at the club this weekend. If I don’t look cool no women will talk to me. If no women talk to me I’ll never get a date. If I don’t get a date, I won’t ever get married. If I don’t ever get married, I won’t have kids. If I don’t have kids my life will never seem complete and I’ll never truly be happy.” You can take the sweet jeans out, and throw in just about anything you can think of to create a similar path of emotional fear.
Now consider this scenario. You are trying to decide whether to stay at your current job or take a new one. The new job has all kinds of things you want very much. More money, a bigger title, more opportunity, and by all accounts it has a better work environment. It also requires that you to move from the city you live in, uproot your family, social structure, and all that you know in your little world. This is an extremely tough spot for the candidates I recruit, and I empathize with them completely.
I have actually listened as one of my candidates said to me after getting an offer, “If I don’t take this job, will I ever have this opportunity again? If I don’t have this opportunity again, will I ever truly be happy with my career? If my career does not pan out, will I be able to retire on time?” He went on to articulate all that he was afraid of in making this decision.
The brain and the emotions that spawn from its immense power are aimed to protect us. This is what makes many decisions so tough to make. A career change is just one of many massive decisions you will be faced with in your life. However, perhaps no other decision will carry the limitless variables and possible outcomes the job change question does. And it goes both ways. It’s not just what happens if you decide to make the change, but what happens if you decide to not make the change. Either path is built around the scary unknown.
I think the lesson in all of this is as follows: if you are considering a change in your career, or you are recruiting someone to your organization that is, be mindful of the gravity of the decision. Don’t push yourself, or the person you are recruiting too far or too hard. If you, or the person you are trying to acquire is a difference maker, time will be given to make the right decision. Myself and my colleagues always advise taking as much emotion out of the situation that you can. Then, make your decision based on the facts, and what led you to looking in the first place. At the end of that process, you must trust your instincts/gut, and rise above the fear of the unknown.
About the Author Nate Elgert
Nate was born and raised in Lincoln, Neb., graduated from Lincoln East High School, and went on to The University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) where he was a four year letter-winner on the men’s golf team earning a bachelor’s degree in communication in 1999. Nate took a winding road back to Lincoln that led through Phoenix, Des Moines, Chicago, back to Kansas City, and then finally Lincoln once again in 2005. Before coming to Aureus Group in 2006 as an account manager in the Aureus Group Lincoln Accounting and Finance office, Nate was a golf professional, an advertising rep, and a mortgage lender. Currently, Nate is a senior account manager. He enjoys playing basketball, golf, and time with his wife Angie, and daughters Sofia & Cecilia.