Frozen Decision Making: Nietzsche Explains

Frustrated that your customers, and prospects can’t make decisions?

Just about everyone I talk to who has customers shares this frustration. Economic uncertainty has translated itself into decision-making paralysis.  People should buy, but they just can’t make the leap to do it.

Check out what Friedrich Nietzsche had to say in The Birth of Tragedy, written in 1872:

“For the rapture of the Dionysian state with its annihilation of the ordinary bounds and limits of existence contains, while it lasts, a lethargic element in which all personal experiences of the past become immersedThis chasm of oblivion separates the worlds of everyday reality and of Dionysian reality. But as soon as this everyday reality re-enters consciousness, it is experienced as such, with nausea: an ascetic, will-negating mood is the fruit of these states.”

Wow. For years we’ve lived in an unreal, Dionysian world. (Dionysian can be defined as being “of an ecstatic, orgiastic or irrational nature; frenzied or undisciplined.)  Now that “everyday reality re-enters consciousness,” people feel a “will-negating” nausea, that prevents them from acting.

Recognize that it is this nausea, borne of the shell-shock of learning that our recent world is one of make-believe, that has paralyzed your customers and prospective customers.  To unfreeze your customers, you need to be the Pepto-Bismol that quiets their nausea; confidence and certainty are the best antidotes to stomach-churning uncertainty.  Help your customers get comfortable with the new reality, and help them jettison their emotional connections with the old order.

As I have written lately, this is not a recession, it is a recalibration.  Resetting your world is nauseating and discomforting.  It freezes people.  Help your customers recognize that the new order is the real order, and help them avoid the disappointments of the lost past.  It really never existed. (e.g., the lost money in your 401K never really existed.)

Nietzsche goes on to compare the Dionysian man to Hamlet, our most famous frozen decision maker who could not act. (I pulled this passage from Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, on page 393.  The orbit of the Hamlet-obsession comet has once again returned to me.)  Bloom’s and Nietzsche’s  point is not that Hamlet couldn’t decide because he was confused by the information that confronted him, but that he knew his situation too well. “An insight into the horrible truth outweighs any motive for action,” Nietzsche writes.  Your customer may not have just learned that his uncle killed his father, as Hamlet learned, but he certainly shares with Hamlet the knowledge that his world will for evermore be different.

Ok, so your customers are nauseated by this “insight into the horrible truth.”  Recognize it for what it is, and calm them down.  That’s how you’ll unfreeze them.

Yes, this means that selling has become a totally new thing.  If you’re not selling differently, you’re not helping your customers recalibrate their world, and you will find them staring back at you, mid-sales pitch, with the uncomfortable look of nausea.

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Posted in Customer Encounters, Sales
One comment on “Frozen Decision Making: Nietzsche Explains
  1. Well, Steve, I must say you read hard for this post. Thanks to my MA in literature I could somewhat follow your argument.
    Harold Bloom’s Hamlet theory is one of about thousands hypothesized in the matter. There isn’t one you could argue to be the norm.
    Back on the topic, I reckon the ‘inaction’ or ‘Frozen decision making’ of customers has certainly got something to do with ‘too much’ information. Only 5 years ago we would have to scan Yellow pages and ring each vendor for a car insurance. Now a comparison-site would present you with so many options which’ll surely freeze most customers. Not to mention the myriad of info we get via other channels day night.

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