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Selling Fear

After 5 years, my laptop finally gave up the ghost.  I ventured down to a big box electronics store on my lunch break.  My salesperson was friendly, got my name, and helped me with my purchase.  To my surprise, he did a lot of things right.  Until…

The extended warranty spiel.

I listened patiently as he outlined every benefit of the extended warranty.  Five minutes later it was finally over.  My response?

“I think I’ll pass.”

He looked surprised.  “Can I ask why?”

I gave him points for that.  Rather than saying the real reason (I’m too cheap), I replied with a more elusive, “I’ll take my chances”

He actually grimaced at me. “Well you will certainly be rolling the dice”.  His tone was if I had decided to drop out of school, or take up cake juggling, not refuse a $200 warranty on a $500 laptop.

He went on, “The failure rate on laptops is quite high.  And the power cords?  They generally only last 12-14 months before they give out from regular use, and then you’re looking at $100 to replace them.  If you need parts for repairs, it can take weeks to get them from the manufacturer” And on and on.

And on.

He did relent after I refused again, but it left a sour note on an otherwise pleasant sale.

So what was he selling me exactly?  It didn’t sound like an extended warranty anymore.  It sounded like he was serving me a big heaping pile of fear – though he did stop short of claiming my computer could (and certainly would) burst into flames at any moment.

Why do we sell warranties this way?  The fear tactic must work on some people.  But I have to wonder, are those people satisfied customers?

Extended warranties can be great, and are valuable and necessary in the right circumstances.  That said, I am curious if there is a better way to sell them that doesn’t sabotage the salesperson’s hard work on the floor.  What do you think?

What techniques do you use to sell extended warranties?  As a shopper, what has convinced you to purchase them?

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