The recent European Union referendum, which resulted in the United Kingdom voting to leave, is a powerful reminder that customers can and do make decisions that may surprise you and sometimes themselves; and more often than not, they may wish they had made different choices.
Are customers (sometimes) fickle? You bet they are!
Are customers always right? Yes, but… they’re never wrong!
Don’t tear out your hair. Yet. It gets worse.
Will they blame you for the decision they took or wish they had taken? All the time!
Why on earth would anyone who is compos mentis (i.e. of sound mind) wish they had chosen differently, perhaps even regret their choice, within a few minutes or hours of making that choice?
The answer is wrapped up in one word: pressure.
To understand why, and learn how to avoid this costly scenario in your business, let’s look at some of the reasons (not in any particular order) that the people having Brexit Buyers’ Remorse have given for why they now wish they had voted Remain instead.
- Genuine belief. Many people genuinely believed that being in the EU was less valuable or satisfactory than being outside of it. The problem is that a belief, even a strongly-held one, relies for its continued existence upon a steady stream of adequate and valid relevant information. If more incompatible information becomes available, or some of the previous ones get debunked, then belief can get eroded or even dissolved. Sometimes this happens so quickly that a customer can drive a shiny new car off a dealer’s forecourt and literally want to turn round immediately and return the car as they now no longer feel the same about the car. The operative word here is “feel”, because belief is an emotion (or more accurately, the outcome of emotions). It may not be rational, as logic or conventional wisdom may not play as significant a part in it as you may think.
Remedy: In this case there is the pressure of emotions. The best way that your business can protect itself from this emotional pressure is by presenting sales information in a simple and clear format, addressed to the specific values of each customer. Every individual makes buying decisions based on their specific values and it’s extremely important that you know these values for each customer, so that you can relate to them in the most appropriate way, in real time.
- Protest. It looks like many people voted Brexit as a form of protest against the goings-on in the political establishment. They appear to think that they weren’t likely to win, so the costs and consequences of a Leave vote seemed very remote. But in the clear light of day (and a Brexit result) on the morning after the night before, the vexation they feel against the political class appears to have lessened considerably either because they now think their irritations are less significant than previously thought or they subsequently had more clarity about the cost/consequences of their choice (or the opportunity cost of not choosing the alternative). Although not as commonly recognised as the other reasons, customers may buy from you as a way of protesting against your competitors, for example if they are not ethical in their practices.
Remedy: Customers who make protest purchases under ethical pressure generally have very high Nurturing Values and they really need to be handled carefully. That protest that works in your favour on this occasion can just as easily work against you if you engage in the same practices your customers find unacceptable. Find out the ethical triggers and trip-wires of your customers and position your company and products to maximise pressing the triggers and avoid the trip-wires.
- Peer pressure. Lots of people said they voted the same way their families, colleagues or friends voted. As soon as such voters go outside the range of the peer pressure, they are liable to start questioning their choices. Once that review takes hold and they realise that they would have preferred to decide under different circumstances (even if the eventual choice may have been the same), remorse kicks in with a vengeance! This is because fundamentally, people cherish the idea of independently taking their own decisions, even more than whether the decision is good or bad for them.
Remedy: Steadfastly resist the temptation to exploit peer pressure! Because the customer will invariably accuse you of manipulation when they “come to” and will not hesitate to bad-mouth you and your products afterwards. Instead, always treat each individual as the separate personalities that they are and sell to them according to their specific values.
- Spontaneity. Some people felt that they didn’t have time to weigh up their options carefully enough and so decided to vote Brexit at the last minute. To paraphrase the old saying, customers who decide in a hurry usually repent at leisure. Although many old school sales professionals like the idea of not giving the customer time to weigh up their options (in the belief that they would then be likely to resist buying), putting customers under this kind of pressure is almost always counter-productive.
Remedy: Determine your customer’s dominant values and structure the sales process accordingly. Also make sure to eliminate time pressure, even with customers who tend to arrive at their decisions more quickly than others. They must always be the pace-makers of the relationship with your company.
- Media or advertising influence. This is, without a doubt, the most pervasive means of persuasion. A lot of people claimed to have voted Brexit on the back of what they saw or read in the media and other marketing. While this may initially appear to have been a successful campaign, the fact that many people are now wondering why they “fell for the marketing gimmicks” demonstrates clearly that choices made in circumstances of heavy and unrelenting marketing and advertising are liable to break down soon after the campaign ends. People generally feel taken for a ride because the reduction in the pressure of persuasion after the campaign gives them the chance to review and weigh things up with a cool head. One of the immediate fall-outs is that there is a concerted effort to throw accusations of deception around and look for someone else to blame for the undesired choices. People generally don’t want to look stupid, so they feel a strong urge to find someone else to blame and the natural culprit is the person or organisation who put out the advertising or marketing campaign.
Remedy: Position your marketing and advertising to deliver the right product or service information at the right pace at the right time to your prospects and customers. If your customers ever feel pressured to buy, this is sure sign of poor customer engagement and can only create major dangers for your business sooner or later. Connected with this is the absolute requirement to avoid providing misleading information to your customers, as they will always find out in the end.
- Costs or consequences not foreseen. It is amazing how many people voted Brexit and then turned round to say that they did so not knowing the costs or consequences of making that choice. This may be because of time pressure or an inability or unwillingness to carry out adequate research.
Remedy: In any case, this pressure of ignorance is to be avoided at all costs (pun unintended) as the decision is guaranteed to be reversed, or at the very least there will be clamour to reverse it and if you don’t give in to that demand, you will be labelled unethical and positioned poorly in the minds of all those customers, their families and friends! Ideally, you want to ensure that all the important pros and cons of the menu of choices are clearly laid out. This helps you appear to your customer as their champion and advocate, rather than as a seller. They are therefore more likely to trust you and buy from you whenever your product or service fits their values and requirements.
These are just some of the main take-aways from the outcome EU referendum vote. You should now be able to prevent feelings of remorse in your customers, having learnt these powerful lessons from this most momentous event in the modern history of the United Kingdom.
To crack your own personality code and discover the link between values and customer buying behaviour, go to www.CodeMyValues.com.
Also, please share your thoughts below.
Dr Fatai Badmus has over three decades’ professional experience on three continents. He was a medical practitioner for 11 years before fully focusing on business and is now the Info Solutions Provider and BANKCODE Certified & Licensed Sales Velocity Trainer & Consultant.