Reversing the Risk

We’ve all been there. The car salesman slides the paperwork across the desk at you, pointing at the signature line. Just this one last step, he says, and there’ll be no way out.

At least that’s how it can sound to the customer as she wipes her sweaty palms on the Naugahyde, wondering if she’s doing the right thing, wondering if she’s considered everything, wondering if she’s taking too big a…


Risk is the dark underbelly of every opportunity, our mother’s voice warning us that there’s no free lunch, P. T. Barnum chuckling about a sucker born every minute. Suddenly the salesperson is the snake in the Garden, hissing “How ’bout them apples?”—and Eve is sliding her checkbook back into her purse and looking for the exit.

The best thing any business can do to earn the trust of a potential customer is reversing the risk. All agreements entail some degree of risk. If you as a business can make it clear that all of the risk will be assumed by you, not by the customer, you’ve removed the last real roadblock to the relationship. Of course, you should do that for items for which your input costs are minimal. If you can really demonstrate that there’s nothing to lose and much to gain, signing on that line goes from a sweaty-palmed “I do” to a simple agreement to dance for a while and see how it goes.

So how do businesses remove the risk roadblock? Depends on the business. When my so saw a sandwich board outside a Karate place that said, 30 days of free karate and keep the uniform, he charmed me into investing in what would be free. Years later at over $100 per month, I realized that was a GREAT offer they made.

What’s the risk? What if little Cain and Abel decide they don’t LIKE karate and we’re stuck with two skimpy bathrobes for free? Nothing to lose.

A smart businessperson will recognize that moment of risk paralysis and create the antidote before it can even set in. “The uniform is absolutely free for the first thirty days. If you decide not to continue, there’s no charge.” Voilà! The risk is assumed by the business, and Eve signs on the dotted line.

“But I can’t be giving away free uniforms!” says the shortsighted CFO—Cheap Financial Officer. That $10 to 30 dollar investment ended up with at least 80 percent converting to paying thousands.

So much for cheap financial officers, right?

How can you try risk reversal for a month? Sure, you’ll get a few customers who fizzle out before thirty days have passed, but you’ll also have a slew of happy and profitable customers who can then buy all you have and refer your friends.

So you’re not selling karate lessons. But what are the roadblocks that get YOUR customers’ palms sweating—and how can you reverse that risk and dry those palms?

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