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By Brian Gillette · June 12, 2024

FUD: A Classic Sales Gimmick

If you’re in MSP sales, or most any sales profession, you’ve almost certainly heard the acronym FUD. Even if you don’t recognize it, you’ve been affected by it one way or another.

FUD = “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.”

FUD is often cited as part of a sales strategy that instills fear, uncertainty and doubt in a prospect. Some sales people may not even realize that they are invoking it in their process. The purpose, of course, is to compel prospects to take action and ultimately to complete a purchase.

It runs rampant in industries such as Cybersecurity and insurance (industries that historically have had a hard time quantifying need).  

FUD is sometimes defined as a “sales strategy”, and for those who use it, drastically affects the way that they interact and engage with their customers.


Trigger warning: I don’t support this kind of selling.

FUD operates under this premise:

To help a prospect understand what is at stake, the salesperson causes them to visualize everything that could go wrong. Should they pass on their opportunity to work with the salesperson, a dangerous situation is bound to occur. Salespeople sow seeds of doubt regarding their current solution or circumstances in order to increase the level of uncertainty. All of this is done with the intention of motivating them to take actionable steps and close the deal. 

Let me go on the record. Using fear, uncertainty and doubt isn’t a sales strategy for MSPs, or anyone else. 

FUD is a gimmick.

What do I mean by gimmick? A gimmick is a cheesy, phony, disingenuous trick to affect short-term behavior. It preys upon vulnerabilities.

However, FUD is a powerful motivator of short-term behavior, which is the bad news:

FUD works.

The news media figured out long ago that fear sells. This is why people watch the news. The bigger the scare - the higher the ratings. This creates a misconception that FUD is producing positive results because it can actually affect short-term behavior.

Some of the biggest prospecting-as-a-service or lead-gen providers in managed services use FUD. They all try to make you doubt your business, and if you hire them, they want your prospects to be afraid for their businesses as well. Sure, a customer can be prodded into quickly solving a perceived problem. But what would this do for your brand? Where does their trust and loyalty towards you stand?

The dark-side of this gimmick; 

When we use FUD, we end up borrowing against our credibility as authorities in the field of managed services.

The only way to grow a business using fear, uncertainty, and doubt is to keep your customers in a constant state of fear. This is not sustainable. Eventually, all that credibility that you borrowed against will start to be questioned. Should your client start to doubt your sincerity, you’ll start hearing things like;

“Why do we need to keep buying more things? Why is everything such an emergency? Aren’t you supposed to be preventing these disasters you keep warning us about?”

Best case scenario? FUD earns you some short-term projects (with high customer churn). 

Worst case scenario, it tanks your reputation as an IT professional.

Most MSPs out there are trying to do right by their clients, and not dishing out FUD intentionally. There’s a big difference between this gimmick vs. presenting your prospect with real honest benefits, risks and options. But we need to be vigilant to make sure our sales teams sell with the right mindset, to start building the trust that forges customer commitment. Empower your team with MSP sales training that motivates prospects to take the next step on their own.

Don’t tell people what to fear—tell them how you are going to help.