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4 deal-killing risk factors

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Continuous change, rapid obsolescence and an uncertain economy each pose a risk in the mind of a buyer. Humans have a powerful need for security, and any buying decision that represents uncertainty or risk threatens a buyer’s sense of security.

There are four main risk factors that contribute to a buyer’s perception of risk.

1. Size of a sale. The first risk factor is the size of a sale. The larger the scale, the more money involved, the greater the perceived risk. If a person is buying a package of Lifesavers, the risk of dissatisfaction is insignificant. But if that person is buying a computer system for his company, this risk factor is greatly magnified. Whenever you are selling a product that has a high price on it, you must be aware that risk enters into the buyer’s calculations immediately.

2. Number of people affected. The second of the four risk factors is the number of people who will be affected by a buying decision. Almost every complex buying decision involves several people. There are the people who must use the product or service. There are the people who must pay for the product or service. There are the people who are dependent on the performance of the product or service. If a buyer is extremely sensitive to the opinions of others, this factor alone can cause her to put off a buying decision.

3. Lifespan of a product. Another factor contributing to the perception of risk is the expected lifespan of a product. A product or service that, once installed, is meant to last for several years generates a feeling of risk. The buyer may worry “What if it doesn’t work and I’m stuck with it?”

4. Unfamiliarity. Lastly, one of the major risk factors is a buyer’s unfamiliarity with you, your company or your product or service. A first-time buyer, one who has not bought the products and services before or who has not bought from you, may be nervous and require a lot of hand-holding. Anything new or different makes the average buyer tense and uneasy. This is why new products or services or a new business relationship with your company must be presented as a natural extension of what the buyer is already doing.

In each case, if your goal is to make a sale you must overcome a buyer’s fear of risk. Everything you do, from the first contact through closing to the delivery and installation of the product or service, must be done with a buyer’s perception of risk uppermost in your mind.

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Brian Tracy is the CEO of Brian Tracy International, which specializes in business training, and the author of the best-selling Psychology of Achievement. For more information, go to


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