How to Increase Risk Tolerance

AND Sales to Professional Services Clients

Real influence is less about what you tell others but what you enable them to tell you that unlocks their resistance to you – Mark Goulston

Would you agree that the greater a person’s risk tolerance, the greater the likelihood of their buying more professional services?

If you agree, do you believe that risk tolerance is something that is set in stone or is it something that can be increased?

There are a number of instruments and tools to assess a person’s risk tolerance. There is less information on how to increase a person’s risk tolerance.

Risk tolerance is usually something that is determined by a combination of people’s temperament – some people are just more trusting with a higher tolerance of risk than others – and past experiences.

There are few things that lower a person’s risk tolerance than prior events where, as right and sure as they believed they were, was as wrong as they turned out to be. Such incidents can metastasize through a person’s confidence in much of their decision making. They may think to themselves, “If I could be so wrong about that, maybe I’m wrong about everything.”

People can become locked in that mindset in a kind of financial PTSD, where such a wrong and bad decision in the past can traumatize them and keep them from moving forward in making decisions that are clearly in their best interest and even ones with very little risk.

If you as a professional services provider are dealing with someone with a form of incapacitating – or at the least highly limiting – risk tolerance, what can you do?

When you’re in a conversation with such a person and you are explaining to them some particular professional services that you would like them to consider and they either say, “Nope, I’m not interested” or feign interest with a series of non-committal “Uh-huhs,” which lead to no action or a very polite, “Let me think about it,” that goes nowhere, you might read through the following and see how it might apply to one of these situations for you and see if it will help:

You: “What are some questions we haven’t addressed or something I didn’t bring up that might help you in your decision making?”

Client: “No, there’s nothing else. I just (non-committal) want to think about it.”

You: “That’s fine, but before we end, might I ask you a hypothetical question that just came to mind?”

Client (hopefully will be curious and not through with you): “Okay.”

You: “If you’re like everyone, including me, are there decisions you’ve made that not only didn’t turn out as expected, but turned out so poorly that after you made it through the mess they created, you might have thought, just like everyone who has gone through that, ‘I can’t go through that again.’ I know that’s happened to me and nearly everyone I know. Might that have happened to you?”

Client (cautious but not closed off to being somewhat vulnerable): “Uh, I guess so.”

You: “And if that is true, might you be thinking that you need to be much more certain and confident about what we’ve spoken about before you want to take a chance and have this turn into one of those decisions you might regret?”

Client (feeling understood and hopefully re-engaged): “I’m sure you’re right.”

You: “I’m glad I am understanding you correctly. Let me ask you another question about a common saying, which is that at the end of people’s lives they regret more what they didn’t do than what they did. Have you ever heard that and even if you haven’t, do you believe it?”

Client: “I do believe that.”

You: “Well if we could put your understandable anxiety about making a decision on this to the side and if you do agree that you may regret not doing something more than doing something, can we extend our conversation just a bit more since we have already devoted this amount of time to it so that I can do a better job of understanding your wishes and desires and your worries and concerns?”

Client: “Okay.”

Being given a second chance with this client you would then proceed to have a highly empathically driven, exploratory conversation with this client with not a scintilla of it being transactional, because that is what chased them away before.

If you don’t have these skills, they can be learned.

A couple of my books might help you greatly in that regard:

And if you’re interested you can contact either John Ullmen or me to find out more.

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