Lead generation, lead nurturing, lead scoring, lead grading. The bountiful terms we have to describe different actions we can take with leads show how incredibly pervasive the lead is to sales and marketing. Salespeople are trained to pursue them, convince them that their product is better than the competition's, and close out the deal.
But according to Forbes.com's Amy Morin, that's where the problem lies. Too many salespeople are spending their energy on trying to get the consumer to choose their product. What they don't realize is that most consumers are not even at the stage of choosing any product - the prospect of them changing their minds is not even on the table. She says, "About 60% of qualified leads fall by the wayside because the customer doesn't find value in purchasing something new and therefore, they decide to forgo any type of change."
The concept makes a lot of sense: salespeople assume people are on the line between two products and pitch towards that group, but in reality a good number of those people feel perfectly comfortable sticking to an old favorite. So why would they listen to a sales pitch that doesn't even apply to them?
The disconnect can be fixed, but not easily. Psychology has shown over and over that people's minds are resistant to change - salespeople may have originated this sidetracked tactic because it's harder to get people to change than it is to advocate for a product.
Let's look at some reasons why people resist change:
- Confirmation bias. "Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons," said Michael Shermer. In other words, people look for and retain the information that validates their own beliefs, and hold arguments against their beliefs to a much higher standard of proof. For instance, psychologist Elliot Aronson conducted a study during the Civil Rights Era where people were presented with both plausible and silly arguments for and against segregation. He found that people who were for segregation remembered the plausible arguments for it and the silly ones against it, and the people who were against segregation did just the opposite. It's hard to change someone's opinion when they ignore points that go against them!
- Cognitive dissonance. Here's a paradox for you: the harder you try to get someone to buy a product, the less they're likely to like it after they get it. Why? Cognitive dissonance theory says that if you are dissatisfied with a product that someone else pressured you to buy, you justify your bad purchase by blaming that other person. But if you yourself wanted the product, you will work harder - without realizing it - to like the product so you can feel more content with yourself and your decision. No one likes being wrong! So in the context of trying to get someone to start changing their mind, you have to strike a balance between being vocal enough and too vocal - or you won't get the results you want.
- People are always distracted. Studies have shown that getting people to change their minds for good requires a good deal of concentration and especially motivation on their part. Needless to say, most people just don't care that much. If people are distracted, your best efforts at getting them to change their minds will be short-term. Counteracting that effect, however, is that when people are actually trying but are being unwillingly distracted, they are more likely to rate the arguments as plausible. A possible loophole in the system!
- Timing matters. It's no secret that children's and young adults' opinions are more malleable than their adult counterparts, and that habits that form in young adulthood can continue for a lifetime. For this reason, 18 to 22-year-olds are often a highly attractive segment to target. However, it's yet another reason why adults are harder to convince.
Despite all the psychological forces working against it, marketing still shapes our consumption habits. All in all, marketing is still a remarkable practice.