How to Increase Sales by Removing Fear

Here’s a great post on sales by Joel Fortner. Joel’s company BlueBridge Communication specializes in helping entrepreneurs effectively market their business. Follow Joel on Twitter. You can guest post as well! Read how to here.

With all of the talk nowadays about social media and new technologies, and people sounding off about “traditional” marketing being dead, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and confused about sales, or how you should market your business.

In short, sales and marketing have more to do with psychology than technology. People don’t buy because an offer was made on a Facebook page they accessed on their iPhone while on a jet hurdling hundreds of miles per hour through the sky! People buy because they trust you, and what you sell satisfies a want or need at the time.

But here’s the thing. Goods and services aren’t even the actual need. It goes deeper than that. We buy stuff to satisfy our basic needs first, like safety and hunger. And then, we buy to bring happiness, relieve stress, boost our confidence, showcase our status, and more.

The desire to satisfy these things is strong. But still, there’s one thing that often stands in the way of the sell—fear. No matter what kind of business you run, fear is part of the buying equation.  As a result, it needs to be part of the marketing equation.  From baked goods to custom jewelry to estate planning, fear comes into play at some point.

The more unfamiliar or expensive something is, the more prominent a role fear plays in the buying decision until something is done to reduce or eliminate it.  So how do you get customers over that hurdle to get them to buy?

One way is by minimizing or removing fear altogether by offering satisfaction guarantees and full refunds upfront in your sales and marketing. If just the thought of doing this makes you nervous, here are three reasons it shouldn’t.

1.  You should be confident enough in what you sell to stand behind it fully.

If you are that confident, you should do what I’m suggesting immediately. If you’re not, I believe your chances of staying in business are slim. There’s a reason you’re not confident in what you’re doing.  Either your confidence in yourself is low or what your selling is, let’s say, lacking.  Regardless, you need to address the problem.

2.  Your focus should be on lifetime customer relationships.

Getting new customers is difficult and expensive.  You need to sweeten the pot at times to increase people’s confidence to get them to buy initially.  Assuming you offer a great good or service, it’s much easier and cheaper to get them to buy again and again once they experience it.  You just have to get them over the fear hurdle.

3.  You’ll most likely never refund a single dollar.

Why?  Because assuming what you do or sell is really good and provides value, people will want to pay you for it.  It’s just how we’re wired.

Question: What are other effective ways to minimize or reduce customer fear?




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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

60 thoughts on “How to Increase Sales by Removing Fear”

  1. Hey Joel, thanks for this article. Agreed: fear is a big obstacle for clients. It’s also a big obstacle for the seller! (Me.) 
    How I’ve tried to reduce fear for my prospects: By not being pushy. I hate when pushy salespeople try to dump their stuff on me, so I never do it to someone else. I try to ask them questions about their needs, and what they are trying to accomplish. If I see a way my services can help them, AFTER I LISTEN, I make my presentation tailored to what I just heard from my prospect. 
    I think that helps to reduce fear on both ends. I’m not pushing. I’m offering real help. 
    I also feel that getting a strong referral from one of your existing clients is a great way to reduce fear. ‘Someone you know and trust is already working with me, and they are having a great experience!” Trust kills off a lot of fear too. 
    Thanks Joel! You will have a GREAT Friday! 🙂 

    1. Spot on!  My suggestion to you and everyone actually is don’t be afraid of telling someone you guarantee they’ll enjoy/benefit from your service or they don’t have to pay or if they have already, you’ll refund their money.  Assuming the risk removes a major barrier between your offering and the conversion. Also, it’s psychological.  As I commented yesterday on the “change” post, we are bad at predicting the future and therefore prefer changeable decisions. It’s called “affective forecasting.”  In other words, people are more likely to buy if they know they can change the decision if their not happy in the end.  So help them with that!  Remove the risk and give them a changeable decision.  The thing is if you deliver, they’ll be happy!  So deliver!

      1.  @JoelFortner It’s funny, because I had an experience just this weekend that fits right into this whole sales model.  I went to two different dealerships to look at mini-vans.
        Of course, being a cash buyer, I didn’t want to haggle much.  Basically, I said “here’s how much I’ve got, what’s your best price.”
        I had two completely different reactions.  One guy tried to handle me by making me sign a piece of paper and making me sit in a lobby while he spoke to the manager, etc, etc.  It took him 30 minutes to go through this whole process until I finally walked out with the sales manager chasing me in the parking lot.
        The other guy simply modeled me and said, this is what I’ve got in it.  Here’s how much I’d like to make on the deal and here’s my warranty.  If you want to sleep on it, we can just handshake on the deal and I’ll throw a sold sign on it until we talk again on Monday.
        Which one do you think I chose?
        P.S.  The other guy keeps calling me!  If he would have just dropped the pressure tactics, it would have made his (and my) life a lot easier!
        Great conversation folks!

        1. Bam! The proof is in the puddin! Both were processes but one is superior.  If he calls again, you should tell him where he went wrong.  I’d love to hear that conversation play out!

        2.  @JoelFortner Since you asked…I have to tell you.  I actually did tell them.  The funny thing is, the poor sales guy was a good Christian dude from Argentina that was here starting a ministry and felt bad during the whole process.  Soooo….I told his sales manager that his process screwed up the deal, NOT the sales guy.  I was very respectful, but the sales manger was very defensive, of course.
          The crazy thing is that the dealership I bought from had just let go of their sales guy, so I was actually dealing with the owner.  So, I called the original sales guy and told him that the other dealership had an opening if he was interested.  I think I caught him off guard, so he didn’t say much.  We’ll see what happens, but I believe that God puts us in these situations for lot’s of reasons.  Hopefully I played my part??
          You asked.  😉

  2. Good job Joel!

    I’ve found that asking good open ended questions is a great way to find out what concerns might be hidden below the surface. I’m regularly taken back by how much people will divulge by just asking “why is that”?

    P.S. Since I feel like I know some of you guys, I hope you don’t mind, but I just started a new podcast for the AMC show “The Pitch”. It’s very relavent to our conversations here since the show exposes some pretty crazy corporate cultures. Anyway, here’s the link:

    Oh and I did find a way to plug Entreleadership in my first episode! 😉

    Thanks all!

  3. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) has a numbered list of criteria to diagnose patients with phobias. You can check out the list here: — I’m not a psychologist anymore than I’m a physicist so the link is more appropriate then me typing it out. 🙂
    What is interesting about the DSM criteria is number 3 on the list: “the person recognizes the fear is excessive or unreasonable.” That is a very important line, especially for us in the business world, because if we’re going to diagnose and “treat” business cases of fear (bad practices, behaviors, and so on), the people we aim to help have to recognize that the fear is excessive and unreasonable. Once they come to that recognition, they take ownership of the problem. Otherwise, it is just a normalized response to some stimulus, and is something that is ordinary — not problematic.
    Same is true for sales: the salesperson has to help the buyer take ownership of the sale. Otherwise, the buyer feels “normal” and has no need for anything the seller is offering.

  4. Great post Joel! I never thought of how fear plays so much on both ends of the sale. I like how easily you explained the need behind the purchase. This information will help me identify how I would offer my services as a learning solutions professional. I’ll be back later… I’m at the Chick-Fil-A Leadercast!

    1. Thanks!  The marketing process is always: find, identify, educate, motivate to visit you, repeat purchase, and refer.  You must address trust and rapport building and removing fear in the educate/motivate part.  I call this your “Get” business because, well, you’re trying to get customers.  Next, you have your Serve business followed by your Keep business.  Every business has Get, Serve and Keep businesses within and it’s best to have deliberate marketing strategies for each one.  It’s really effective.

        1.  @ChrisLoCurto  @JoelFortner It’s like adding the phrase “in business” to the end of every fortune cookie. Of course, it is also -another- fantastic idea on how to heckle Chris during his speaking gig May 15th…. 
          Chris: “Good morning, it is so wonderful to be here…”
          Audience: “In business!”
          Chris: “You are all an excellent audience…”
          Audience: “In business!”
          The opportunities are endless, in business.

        2. This has the making for an excellent blog and I don’t mean blog post.  I’m talking dedicated satirical blog called something like “…in business.”

  5. Great thoughts, Joel! I also recommend allowing customers to try the product or service first as much as possible. Allowing the customer to experience or test it helps break down those fear barriers. Another approach is to use endorsements or success stories of other customers who are satisfied. Credibility is crucial in building trust with a new customer. 

  6. completely classy post Joel! I never thought of how fear plays so much on both ends of the sale. I like how easily you explained the need behind the purchase. This information will aid me identify how I would offer my services as a finding out solutions guru. I’ll be back later… I’m at the girl-Fil-A Leadercast!

  7. Thanks!  The marketing process is always: find, identify, educate, motivate to visit you, repeat purchase, and refer.  you have to address trust and rapport building and removing fear in the educate/motivate part.  I call this your “Get” business because, well, you’re trying to get business friends.  Next, you have your Serve business followed by your Keep business.  Every business has Get, Serve and Keep companies within and it is best to have deliberate marketing strategies for each one.  it’s really efficient.

  8. Chadrick Black

    Good words, Joel.  Besides writing, I’ve also owned a landscaping company for eight years and often enjoy levels of trust with many of my customers that seem almost unheard of in today’s “Better get that in writing!” business approach.  But you’re right; fear is involved when creating a new relationship. Now you’re talking about adding money, preconceived notions, slight stress, maybe previous bad experiences with other companies (the reason they called you) and a number of other factors to the mix! And just like that, you’ve placed yourself in a meeting (initial sales call) with a limited window of opportunity where one participant needs to step up, put their fear aside, and focus on making the participant feel comfortable and safe as quickly as possible. 
    With that said, I believe if anyone wants to own a successful business or develop into an outstanding leader, they need to quickly understand the importance of stepping up and playing the role of comforter and the importance it plays in developing life-long customers/employees/relationships.    
    Additionally, I personally see you’re observations of fear as playing a key role in making folks like Dave Ramsey so successful.  Think about it.  People are actually calling in to him sharing financial mistakes they’ve just made or been making for years. (In America, that’s almost as taboo as discussing their sex life during Thanksgiving Dinner!)  Not only are they sharing personal details of their financial life to Dave, (someone they have probably never met face-to-face) they’re doing it while a very large audience is eavesdropping via radio and Internet. Now, why in the world would anyone feel safe doing that????  To me, it gets real simple.  The people who call in trust Dave (even though some may be afraid of what he is going to say. HA!)  And why do they trust him?  Over the years, he continually takes on the role of comforter and makes his callers feel safe.  But bigger than that, he gives them permission to let their guard down.  He understands that his life, just like a hammer, can be used as a tool and a weapon.  And with each call, he has a choice of building people up and adding value or tearing people down and taking their dignity.  And he chooses to build people.  Truthfully, I think that’s why a lot of callers actually find more comfort in his underlying message of “It’s going to be okay.  You’re going to make it…” than in his “Here is what you should do…” advice.  Bottom-line:  He cares about those callers/customers and they sense that!
    When your customers sense you care about them, fears are extinguished.  Combine that with a value-adding product or service, purpose, strong work ethic and, WOW, you will see magic happen!                 

  9. Hey Joel, I just wanted to tell you not to be afraid because I can work on your painting and send you detailed photos until it is exactly like you want it. And if you hate it, well, never mind, you won’t hate it, because I’ll work until you are happy.  And I’ve never taken anyone’s deposit and then disappeared, ever. 
    How’d I do in removing your fear? 😎

      1.  @LouiseThaxton I didn’t think about offering a full refund until I read this post by Joel. Now I’ve got one more tool in my sales kit!

  10. People who would use repair shops don’t build their own computers. Instead they buy prebuilt systems with warranties from Dell, HP, Best Buy, etc. The warranty ensures that the customer keeps their business with the company. You never had a chance.

  11. I sell insurance — property and liability. I can’t normally give that back, although you can always cancel policies. The biggest fear folks have is tied to lack of understanding of what coverages they get. Our biggest challenge is to help bring understanding w/out overwhelming them with tons of detail. 

  12. I’ve been to Dollar General, and I think Family Dollar, and they have items priced over $20. Does anyone know the name of a dollar store where everything is really only a dollar?

  13. Joel – great post and I love how you are addressing the fear on both sides – the buying and the selling!  The selling – if you believe in what you are selling enough to stand behind it totally with a GUARANTEE – then the confidence is there – and a fearlessness is present.  And if you are purchasing – and there is a guarantee – well, it takes part of the fear away.  
    Also, as you point out so well – if someone is wanting a customer for life – then you MUST believe in what you are selling – and that the product you are selling will benefit the customer so much that they will want to stick around for a lifetime.  
    Once again – builds fearlessness!

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