Posted by: peterhact | September 29, 2011

The Three Horsemen of FUD

FUD (The three horsemen of Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt). Not to be confused with the aviation term, FOD (Foreign Object Debris), but they both have the same reaction.

FUD was well known in the 90’s as a method to disguise the shortcomings of products by making the competitor product appear far worse. From memory, this was the time of the Black Power Suits, with a White Shirt and the overly aggressive Red Tie. (if you were in the industry at the time, you know exactly who i am talking about, if not, I am not going to expand on it)

FUD meant that if your product stacked up worse, you would dazzle the client with facts, figures (speeds and feeds) and all the things that the competitor was doing wrong in the industry at the time.

Common comments included “they don’t seem to keep that model for too long before a new one comes out.” “What if they discontinue it and you need parts? do you think they will keep them around for their clients?” or my favorite, speaking about a new player in the market – “who? never heard of them. Must be a small operation, if they aren’t here in the market yet.”

Fast track to today. Now, end users for the most part are tech savvy, they have access to all manner of information and can usually work out their needs themselves. They have made the selling game a whole new experience, making the sales people less hunters and more providers.

They are more interested in solutions, not products. If a certain brand can meet their needs, you now have to be absolutely sure that the comment you make about it is accurate, or they will know. They always know.

The FUD factor is now on the other foot, the end users control the market, and they will make you fear their rationale, make you uncertain about your statements, and doubt your ability.

How can a sales person or their company combat this? is there a magic bullet that can save you from the FUD factor? Why yes, there is.

Want to combat a FUD factor discussion? Sell the product you represent. don’t belittle or disparage another brand, trying to make it appear inferior. For all you know, the client may have bought the other brand in the past and has drawn their own conclusions. They may be interested in your brand as the one they bought was inferior in their estimation, or they are just interested in “what’s new in the zoo” technology wise.

I was at an event recently where I was told over and over again about the problems that another brand has. Unbeknownst to the presenter, I have an intimate knowledge of the brand, as I own a couple of their products.

When the pitch wasn’t going the way he wanted, he pulled out all stops and “went for the Kill”, raising the bar on the negatives of the other brand. Not once did he mention the better things his brand does. He lost me. He lost my confidence in the information he was providing, because if he had mentioned the robust nature of his product, I would have been sold.

The FUD factor can be used against you in a business environment, when you are working in an office where there is a common knowledge about your career aspirations. Belittling dreams and attitudes of others can have two effects – either the person gives up, or they become more determined to succeed.

Usually, they stop discussing their future with other colleagues. They keep it to themselves, they secretly plan that day when they can show up the belittler. (I know it isn’t a word)

So FUD can be everywhere. it can impact many environments, and it can do untold damage. FUD can be easily countered and neutralised. Be honest. Tell the truth, and you defeat all of the horsemen in one go.



  1. Great article Peter. I agree completely. A sales pitch based on the weaknesses of your competitors instead of the strengths of your own is weak. I see it all the time in the helpdesk / ITSM software industry, but really, the FUD factor as you’ve mentioned gets into every aspect of life which is a shame.

    • Thanks for the comment, Rod. I appreciate all feedback, it certainly feels as if the industry has to resort to weaknesses instead of strengths.

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