How to Influence Change-Resistant Customers to Change

8 min read
Aug 17, 2022

You are working with a new customer when they suddenly hit the brakes: They purchased your deliverable, but now they are hesitant to implement necessary changes.

Customers can go from 100 to 0 on the willingness-to-change scale in seconds because change is scary and uncomfortable.  

Convincing customers to change is no different than convincing somebody to change their eating, smoking, or gambling habits: At first, they want to change, but then they realize that change is uncomfortable and decide to stay the same.

I am sharing how to convince change-resistant customers to change according to your expert plans.

Unless you convince customers to change:

Convincing customers to change is a matter of their survival. Here is how to get your most change-hesitant customers to adopt your expert advice:


3 Signs Your Customers Are Resisting Changes


Most customers will not stand up and say, ‘I do not want to change’.


Because, admitting they do not want to change reveals they are afraid of change.

Nobody likes to think they are afraid of anything!

Therefore, you must look for signs that customers are change-resistant.

Thankfully, most of the signs are pretty obvious.

The signs to look for include:

  • Making specific defensive statements
  • Closed-off body language

Moreover, you can tell your customers are resistant to change when they become defensive in their words and body language.


This Is Not What We Wanted

First, customers who say ‘This is not what we wanted’ are obviously resistant to change.

On the surface, it sounds like they do not approve of the plans you have to change their business.

For example, they do not approve of the specific marketing strategy you will use to help them generate inbound leads.

However, customers who say this are really saying, ‘This looks good, but I do not like that I will need to change’.

Moreover, customers who say ‘This is not what we wanted’ are not saying they do not like your plans.

Instead, they are saying they do not like that your plans require them to change.


Do We Really Need to Do This?

Second, customers who say, ‘Do we really need this?’ are very afraid of change.

On the surface, it sounds like the customer is questioning the efficacy of your plans to address their pain point.

However, customers who say this are really saying, ‘I am afraid of change, therefore I will question if change is necessary for me to improve’.

That said, customers who make this statement are often the most difficult to influence because fear is their motivating force.

If you know anything about fear, you understand that getting people to stop being so afraid is nothing short of a battle.


Will This Really Work?

Will this really work?’ is about as defensive of a statement as you will ever hear.

When somebody says, ‘Will this really work?’, they are really saying, ‘Are YOU going to make this work?'. 

They are less worried about changing their strategy and more concerned about handing you control.

AKA, they are afraid of giving you control to solve their pain point.

Changing who is in control of their pain point is nothing short of scary for these customers.


Generally Closed Off Body Language

Finally, customers with closed-off body language is a sign they are defensive.  Being defensive is a sign they are change-resistant.

Look for closed-off body language in your customers, including:

  • Randomly raising their voice
  • Saying I feel instead of I believe or I think
  • Randomly crossing arms

Keep an eye out for these body language signs to detect how defensive a customer is.

The more defensive they are, the more likely they are change-resistant.


You Will Take a Hit If Customers Do Not Change


Here is the thing: Your customers MUST change according to your expert plans.

If they do not:

Ultimately, you look like the bad guy when customers do not change!

You will look like the salesperson who promised one thing and delivered another.

This is why I said convincing customers to change is a matter of survival.


Customers Will Not Get the Solutions They Need to Survive

First, customers who do not change according to your expert plans do not make the adjustments they need to make to survive.

Think about it like this: Imagine an expert doctor gives a patient tools to lose weight.  But then, the patient does not use the tools.

As a result, the patient does not get healthier and ultimately suffers despite having expert guidance.

Similarly, customers who do not change according to your expertise do not get the solutions they need to thrive.

In many cases, B2B customers who do not adopt changes collapse.


You Will Look Like the Failure

Customers are not the only ones who suffer from not changing according to your guidance.

Additionally, you suffer because customers blame you for their suffering!

Let us return to the doctor-patient scenario: If you are a supposedly expert doctor, but your patient is not getting healthier, how does that reflect on you?

Do you think the patient will blame themselves for not adopting the changes?  

Or, are they going to say the doctor is not so genius, after all?

More likely than not, the patient will blame the doctor for their failure because they do not want to accept responsibility.

Similarly, your customers will blame you for their suffering!  

Even though they are the ones resisting necessary changes, they will point the finger at you instead of themselves.


Your Reputation Is at Stake

Standing up for change is crucial because it protects your reputation.

Again, do you expect customers to blame themselves when they suffer for not adopting necessary changes?  Or, do you expect them to blame you?

Customers are more likely to blame anything but themselves when they fail.  

The moment customers blame you instead of themselves is the moment your reputation comes into question.

The moment your reputation comes into question is the moment the survival of your business comes into play.

Furthermore, the survival of you and your customer’s businesses are at stake unless you can convince them to change.


DO NOT Do These Things If You Want to Convince Customers of Anything


So, how do you get change-resistant customers to embrace change?

Before getting into that, here are three things you MUST NEVER do unless you want your customers to be even more reluctant to change.

Doing these three things ensures they will do anything but change according to your plans.


Tell Customers They Are Wrong

First, the last thing you want to do is tell customers they are wrong.

For example, if a customer is hesitant to adopt your new marketing strategy, the last thing you want to say is, ‘Well, your current strategy is not going to get you anywhere’.

Customers feel attacked when you tell them they are wrong. They get more defensive once they feel attacked.

What makes you think customers will be willing to change if they feel attacked?

Of course, they will only move further away from wanting to change.

That said, how do you influence customers to change without directly telling them they are wrong and coming off too strong (more on this below!)?


Over-Explaining the How

Next, avoid over-explaining the details of your plans to change customer processes.

Show them the strategy you will use to help solve their pain point, but avoid over-explaining how much they will need to change their processes.

I am not saying you should lie to your customers about what you are doing! All I am saying is to avoid extreme detail if they are already showing reluctance to change.

Once you start over-explaining, the customers begin questioning things that do not need questioning in the first place.

For example, imagine you are searching for a new computer.  You have your eyes set on one when then the salesperson starts going into tech specs, including CPU, algorithm, and application programming interface.

All you wanted was to change computers, but now you realize you have all these other factors to consider.  You decide to contemplate the purchase before making the switch.

Once you start dropping details that are over the prospect's head, they question their decision to change.


Tell Customers Big Changes Are Coming

Finally, there is a difference between telling customers you will get them results and telling them they need to make overhaul changes to get those results.

Telling clients they need to make extensive changes is a one-way ticket to them not wanting to change!

Moreover, saying that changes are needed does not motivate people to change.  It only makes them want to change less.

Therefore, avoid using language that insinuates enormous changes are coming.

You do not need to lie and say they will not need to make changes.  

At the same time, you do not need to tell them you are about to run an overhaul on their company.


How to Influence Change-Resistant Customers to Change


Here is how to influence your most change-resistant customers to change in three simple steps.

Remember, getting customers to change is about more than helping them get the solution they need.

Your reputation is also dependent on customers following through with changes.  When your reputation is in question, the survival of your business is at play!

Here is how to get customers to change according to your expertise.


Mirror the Customer’s Language and Voice

First, change-resistant customers have their defenses on high.  You are unlikely to influence anybody to change as long as they are very defensive.

Therefore, the first order of business is opening customers up to your suggestions by lowering their defenses.

To drop their defenses, mirror their language and voice.

For example, if the customer talks in a low voice, try mirroring their tone.  Also, if the customer uses particular phrases, copy some of them in your speech.

People are more likely to open up to those who are like them.  

Moreover, people are more likely to open up to others who are a reflection of themselves.

Therefore, mirror the language and voice of your customers until they see themselves in you.

Ultimately, their defenses will drop, and you stand a greater chance of influencing them to change.


Point at the Problem Like It’s a Fly on the Wall

As I already mentioned, you will never influence prospects to change if you tell them they are wrong.

Therefore, influence customers to change their ways by pointing out problems like they are flies on a wall.

Think of it like this: Imagine you are a ceiling crack repair technician visiting a client who has a crack in their ceiling.  

If you point at the crack and say, ‘We need to fix this or your building is going to flood! Why have you not taken care of this yet?’, the customer will get defensive.

The more defensive they get, the less likely they will listen to you.

Instead of telling prospects they are wrong, point your finger at the problem and let prospects conclude they need your help implementing a solution.

For example, if there is a crack in the ceiling, try saying, ‘I see you have a crack in your ceiling, what are you going to do about it?’.

Pointing at the problem exposes that customers need your help making changes.  They will realize they are incapable of solving the problem without your expertise.


Make Customers Think They Are Coming Up With the Ideas (Important)

After pointing your finger at the client’s problem, make them feel like they are coming up with the changes to fix it.

Let’s go back to the ceiling crack analogy: After pointing at the crack and asking customers what they think about it, they realize they do not have the tools to solve the problem alone.

At this point, you come in and drop hints about what changes need to be made to solve the problem.  

These hints are the changes you were going to implement in the first place.

After dropping hints, ask the customer again what they think needs to be done.

More likely than not, they will reiterate the changes you dropped as hints as if they came up with them on their own.

Ultimately, the client feels like they are the one coming up with the changes to fix the problem!

If prospects think they are coming up with the changes, they are less resistant to implement them.

Furthermore, make the prospect feel like they are the ones directing the changes.  When they think they are calling the shots, their defenses drop, and necessary changes can happen.


Final Thoughts on How to Convince Customers to Change


No, it is not just you- many salespeople successfully close deals with new customers only for the customer to resist making any changes.

Get your customers to change with my three-step process.  Convincing them to change is a matter of survival!

Your business will not survive unless you convince clients to change!

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