Should Salespeople Channel Project Fear?

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It feels wearisome. Unedifying. Just plain wrong.

Project Fear.

A termed coined during the Scottish Independence referendum. It suggests that to win, one side majors on all the negatives. Vote the other way as they constantly ram home – and you’ll be off to hell. Without a handcart.

And they’re off again. Welcome to the UK doomsayers of the In/Out European Union referendum.

If it wasn’t enough that the Prime Minister no less, appeared to argue, without hint of remorse, that to Leave would trigger WW3.

Then at the weekend, possibly the most inept, unworthy and impactless PM we’ve had in my memory (against pretty stiff competition of the equally useless I grant you) had the temerity to state that in his opponent’s hands the country [specifically the ‘free’ health service] was;

“as safe as a pet hamster in the presence of a hungry python”

Could the threat of impending apocalypse boom any louder?

Sadly, yes.

The Chancellor couldn’t miss out on the fun. In his set-piece interrogation of the campaign, his remarks included;

“Frankly, there’s a lot to be scared about”

“We don’t want to hit the big snake taking us back to the bottom”

‘every economic variable would have “a big fat minus” before it’

What’s at stake? “We would have a recession”

“I don’t want to tell my children in 20 years that Britain used to be a success”

Whoa. And that’s putting aside the cascade of figures (all disputed) that claim our wealth would be heavily diminished should we not Remain.

Mind you, that snakes & ladders line is a cracker.

Being an upbeat glass half-full kind of salesguy, I tend towards thinking that if you haven’t got anything positive to say, then shut right up.

Yet a couple of points of buyer psychology nag away.

Many solutioneers believe the old IBM mantra of FUD to be a selling pinnacle; Fear Uncertainty Doubt. Plant and nurture within a prospect’s mind and you are home.

Then there’s the brilliant Prospect Theory. Which suggests people act way more strongly to stem losses than make gains.

Project Fear perhaps works best when you are seeking to preserve the status quo. Think about the tough nut of Reversion Point Reversal. Who hasn’t been bitten by a prospect frustratingly deciding it’s “better the devil you know”.

But there’s an argument here that if you want to force change, is there not the “stay still, go backwards” trade?

Use with care in the field. Although adaption of the dice-induced slippery slide I must myself use.

How about,

‘what are your snakes and what are your ladders here, mister prospect…?’

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