Selling and the Prevention Paradox

I first came across the appealing persuasion tactic of “nudging” last July.  It seems a concept with legs.  In an article on the Beeb light-heartedly debating merits of a possible anti-pork national health policy, this delightful sentence cropped up:

“When you find the muesli at the front of the breakfast counter, and the bacon sandwiches in an unmarked gloomy corner of the canteen, you know you’re being ‘nudged’.”

Their context was that if we all stopped gorging on things potentially harmful, the benefits to the individual may be minuscule (as most of us would still live to a ripe old age regardless of dietary changes) yet the impact on the nation would be enormous (as the Health Service would save millions from less illness to address).  This quandary has a name; The Prevention Paradox.

This offers fascinating insight for the salesrep.  Let me demonstrate by adapting another sentence:

“If everyone improved their [insert work related verb here] just a bit, then the benefits to the overall [company] would be large but each individual would not notice the difference.”

So the Prevention Paradox sounds like something solution orientated sellers regularly face.  How often do you suffer potentially crippling indifference from people that feel any lack of personal impact should render your proposal unnecessary, without ever acknowledging the bigger picture?

Wikipedia further suggests that our battle will be all uphill:

“awareness of this paradox means that the strength of purported benefits from a [proposal] often tends to be exaggerated, which causes people to get even more cynical and less likely to accept burdensome interventions”

Ouch.  So how do you avoid such a trap?  Well, you become a “choice architect”.  And oh-happy-days the originators of this concept have a blog seemingly recounting hundreds of ideas.

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