Using Fear as an Idea Sales Tool

“If you don’t do this OSHA will come in and fine you.”  “You could be sued for doing what you are doing.”  “We have to change what we are doing because it’s against the law.”  These are all expressions I have heard and read from many different people trying to sell change, an idea or convince someone else about how knowledgeable they were.   In every case, the person uttering those words was using fear as a sales tool.


They may have been right.  Their words made have been exactly right.  Yet we all know, or should know as apparently, some do not, that fear is not the best motivator to facilitate business change. Oh make no mistake, using fear can be a good thing in some instances, but trying to sell an idea with fear isn’t the best way to make a change in business.

We’ve all heard the term “Business Case”.  A business case is nothing more than a business reason for doing things.  It contains the following:

Six Simple Steps


This is simply a brief statement of what the problem that you are trying to solve is.  In my OSHA example, it could be “we are having a high incidence of hearing injuries.”  It may or may not include a brief description of some possible solutions.

The problem statement

This goes beyond the summary statement.  It is a clear in-depth explanation of the problem.  It can be blended with the next step where you include analysis of the problem.


Here you discuss the substantiveness of the issue.  What is it costing the business, what happens if no action is taken (that is not getting sued or fined) and related substantive matters that help define the scope of the problem.


This is where you describe possible solutions to the problem.  I am a firm believer in giving different options or recommendations.  I don’t care if they are abstract or simple.  The key is to develop choices and from those encourage discussion.  Sometimes parts of different options get blended together and become part of the eventual solution.  These recommendations would include costs, time to perform, possible constraints or barriers, etc.

Cost-benefit analysis

Do not kid yourself.  Everything has a cost.  From simply walking around and telling employees to put their hearing protection on to actually writing down and tracking the outcome of your efforts, there is a cost.  Time is a cost as are other things you would more naturally see as costing something such as new hearing protection equipment.  You would then compare this cost to the reduction in events (also a cost as these can be quantified into dollars and cents), actual cost (our machines are damaging parts as we make them causing us to do rework.  As a result, we are losing money not only in raw materials but also in the time of production.  Spending money to fix this problem will result in the elimination of this problem saving is additional money.)  Comparing what you spend (Cost) to what you save (benefit) will help you determine how appropriate the solution is.


This is exactly what it says it is.  You as the presenter simply choose the best option from what you recommended and using the Cost-Benefit Analysis you did above, you share why.    Following your presentation of the recommendation, you ask the all-important question far too many forget.  That question is, “What is your decision?” This is asking for the sale, the closing of your idea sales presentation.


Six Simple Steps


This Business Case does not always have to be in writing.  It can be verbal.  Your business culture will determine what is the most appropriate method.  Do not fall into the trap of “I can’t measure this so I’ll just use words to present my idea.”  In simple terms, if you don’t measure it you can’t manage it.  If you can’t manage it the business may want to look at not doing it.  Everything can be measured.

This method also works well for sales presentations.  That doesn’t require fancy or so-called formal sales training either, you know the process, use it and win more sales.

Whether you choose to use this method to present a new innovative idea within your place of work, to change a process in your company or to sell a product or service, this method creates fact-based decision making.  It removes emotion from that process and as a result, removes opinion.  A well-presented business case will result in a positive decision unless the decision maker simply doesn’t want to hear what you have to say or isn’t interested.  That issue creates an entirely different situation for another time.