Professionals should not resort to using fear to sell their services

Fear based selling is driven solely by a desire to sell. It focuses on the “making the sale”; irrespective of what the person needs.

Bill Hiltz

Fear is a universal. We all experience it, and when we are consumed with fear, we desperately search for ways get back inside our comfort zone.

Salespeople know this, and that’s why “fear” is a highly effective tool to sell products and services.

At the consumer level, marketers use fear to sell endless numbers of products ranging from anti-aging potions (fear of getting old) and weight loss systems (fear of being overweight), to home security systems ( fear of being unsafe).

Even political attack advertisements will often use fear-based marketing to portray a specific candidate as a person who cannot be trusted. (i.e.: create doubt and fear in voters minds)

Fear-based-selling at a professional level is predatory, manipulative, and unethical.

When a person is seeking professional services (i.e.: lawyers, advisors, accountants, doctors) they often ascribe a high level of trust to the professional who is advising them.

Some professionals are unable to keep their self-interest in check, and will use fear based selling to drum up business.

It works like this: to make a sale, the professional will exploit a person’s preexisting fears by exaggerating issues, creating artificial problems or make repeated warnings about doomsday scenarios (i.e.: “do this or die”)

The professional then will create uncertainty and doubt by making dubious or negative comments about competitors, or omitting alternate or less costly solutions to make it appear that there are no other options available to resolve your problem.

Here are some examples of fear-based-selling, as told to me by clients.

“I contacted a HIPAA lawyer to ask about a potential breach. I was told I needed to pay them a $15,000 retainer (just to start) in order to protect myself from dire legal consequences”

(editor’s note: the breach in this case involved accidental disclosure of eight patient ‘appointment reminder’ emails)

To get my business, [ name ] scared me into believing embezzlement was near certain to be happening, and if I did not hire them, it could spell financial ruin of my practice.”

(editor’s note: the doctor spent over $8000 for an investigation to learn that embezzlement was not happening)

“My IT company told me to ensure my patient data information is secure, I need to upgrade all of my computers at a cost of over $25,000”

(editor’s note: the practice got a second opinion, and had upgrades completed for about half the cost)

There is no place for fear-based-selling of fraud examiner services.

When first encountering concerns of fraud and embezzlement, most dentists feel confused.

They lack the experience and insight required to provide them with proper direction; leaving them susceptible to fear, uncertainty and doubt.

For example, consider these fear-based comments made by dentists when they first speak with me:

  • Can you prove it – 100%? (fear, uncertainty)
  • What if I am wrong? (doubt)
  • I was told there are hundreds of ways to steal; I do not know where to look first? (uncertainty based on a dubious statement)
  • Will I lose my dental license? (fear, uncertainty)
  • Will I face HIPAA fines or penalties? (fear, uncertainty)
  • Can the insurance companies audit me? (fear, uncertainty)
  • Do the police NEED to be involved? (fear, uncertainty)
  • Will my practice be all over the news and social media? (fear)
  • What will my patients think? Will will they leave the practice? (fear)
  • “I feel stupid fore giving her so much control” (doubt)
  • “It’s probably easier just to fire her and move on” (fear, uncertainty)


Trust-based-selling requires strict adherence to the principles of veracity and beneficence.

Trust-based-selling means addressing the person’s fear, and removing their uncertainty and doubt.

Trust-based-selling means using the four way test (or an equivalent) as a way to do business.

Trust-based-selling is driven by a desire to help people, which in my case involves helping people resolve their most complex problems. It means asking the right questions, and putting the client’s interests above my own.

Everyone who calls me has some level of fear or concern.

Some callers express low to moderate concern, while others will tell me they are living their worst nightmare, and willing to do anything to get out of it.

Instead of scaring and paralyzing people into into buying services that they do not need, I educate them, so they can be assured to act in their own best interests.

When selling my professional services, my standard approach is to provide an honest and transparent account of each person’s situation.

Professionals that use fear-based-selling are less trustworthy. In fact, there is a formula that can be used to calculate just how trustworthy a person is.