Risk and certainty are not the same, but listening to the way many speak, it is easy to get the impression that even native English speakers often mix and interchange the two. In most instances or conversation this misuse (or abuse) of the two may not matter or have tangible consequences, but in sales, well, they do.
At a basic level, with risk we are dealing with the known or experience backed estimate or assumptions. If we look at actuarial work, they assess the risk, based on data and other factors, and then calculate what it will take to cover or mitigate the risk.
Certainty speaks to the unknown, right out of the dictionary:
not clearly identified or defined; a fire of uncertain origin.
Certainty or uncertainty may be a component of the factors people will use to calculate risk, but it is always the unknown element.
When it comes to selling it is not a question of right or wrong, but ensuring the seller and buyer are talking about the same thing, otherwise we sellers, may be introducing unnecessary risk into our sales.
Buyer may be uncertain about a number of things related to their purchase, which impacts the level of risk they perceive. Some of that uncertainty may be around the new direction they are embarking on that may require services like yours. Others may be certain they are on the right path, but uncertain you are the right travel mate or partner embark with. One way to manage this is providing insight and knowledge to help the buyer understand, and reduce their uncertainty.
Some believe they do this but they do not. An example would be ROI calculators or marketing contrived scenarios. These are not bad, but are usually product or vendor centric. They take a “real life” scenario, which is usually not based on the average experience, but the absolute best-case scenario, usually one your current buyer does not always relate to. This adds to their uncertainty about whether you understand what they are looking to achieve, adding to both their uncertainty and the risk to you getting the deal.
According to The B2B Buying Disconnect – TrustRadius 2017, buyers find sellers focus on providing material that buyers don’t find very useful or trustworthy, they don’t trust all vendor claims, nor do they expect to, especially when sellers overemphasize selection criteria that aren’t important to buyers. But buyer do want something that vendors have in but fail to fully leverage, satisfied customers, prospects want hands-on experience with the product and insights from customers. A clear indication that sellers are adding to the uncertainty with their approach.
Sellers often know the outcomes or impacts they seek, but have no clear ideas on how to get there. This is where sellers make the mistake of only focusing on risks they perceive prospects may focus on while comparing providers. When they do this instead of dealing with the buyer’s uncertainty first, they are adding risk to their chances of winning the deal. Sellers need to understand buyer uncertainty, once they have removed, minimized or isolated the buyer’s uncertainty sufficiently, they can turn to dealing with the inherent risk. Sellers actually increase the risk in the deal if they do not deal with uncertainty first, especially if that uncertainty is not around vendor, but on the means to an end, specifically their objectives. By failing to deal with uncertainty, they elevate risk.
One way to deal with this, as I have stated in the past, is to leave the product in the car, and go in with the goal of understanding their objectives, gaps and hurdles in their way to achieving those objectives. This will help them articulate their uncertainty; you can leverage the tension between what they want and what is driving their inability to achieve them, the very things causing their uncertainty. Creating clarity, removing doubt, will not only allow them to attribute value to dealing with you, but also reduce perception of risk on their side.