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Here's How to Tell a Buyer He's Wrong -- Without Losing the Business

This story originally appeared on Salesforce

Sometimes buyers are just wrong. Dead wrong.


They think your price is too high when it's average for your market. They think a lousy competitor can give them better value. They think your product is underperforming when it's really a success.

You know the customer is wrong. But what can you do?

Here's what you can't do: You can't lose your temper. You can't tell them they're nuts. You can't argue with them. But you can't just sit there either.

So how can you show them the light without wrecking your sale?

Recent research demonstrates a powerful way to communicate hard truths. If you speak in the brain's "native language," you can avoid that painful back-and-forth and get buyers to accept facts that they otherwise might not want to hear.

Related: 4 Ways to Make Your Business a Powerful Customer Magnet

Seeing the Light

So what's the brain's "native language"? A study from Dartmouth College revealed it by looking in a place where beliefs often trump facts: politics.

Researchers presented subjects with factual information that directly contradicted their political beliefs. The researchers deliberately chose topics that were polarizing – the "surge" strategy of sending more U.S. troops into Iraq, and job growth during Obama's first year in office.

Liberals tended to think that Bush's surge strategy failed – when it did in fact reduce violence in Iraq. Conservatives were convinced that the economy got worse after Obama was sworn in – when in fact jobs increased. So how could they be coaxed into accepting the evidence that refuted these dearly held beliefs?

The researchers tried three methods: 1. Giving people a written paragraph that laid out the facts; 2. Asking participants to reflect on a positive life experience, so they'd be less defensive and more open minded; and 3. Presenting the facts visually in a chart or graph.

The most effective approach by far: presenting the information visually.

Here's why the visuals were persuasive, the researchers said: Our brains prioritize visual information over words. More of its processing power is devoted to understanding images. That's one reason visuals are so extremely powerful.

Related: The Quickest Way to Deliver Your Message? Make It Visual.

But cognitive research suggests something deeper – that the human brain has evolved in such a way that it's more likely to see visuals as "true" and words as, literally, "debatable." A classic study from the University of Minnesota, for example, found that presentations using visual aids are 43% more persuasive than unaided presentations.

So when dealing with a "confused" buyer, save yourself time, aggravation, and maybe even your sale, by using images to make your case. You don't have to be a graphic designer to make visuals work for you. The point isn't to dazzle the buyer; it's to get your point across. In fact, the charts and graphs used in the study weren't flashy – they just presented the information in a way that was easy to understand.

Let's face facts – salespeople love to talk. If they didn't, they'd probably be in another line of work. Plus, most salespeople see themselves as great communicators who are effective at persuading with words. And in many situations, words can get the job done. But when you're up against a stubborn belief, words will likely lead to a lengthy – and ultimately futile – debate.

Of course, this technique won't work every time. In some cases, buyers are really angry about something else, or they're just looking to blow off steam and you're the unlucky person on the receiving end. But if you're stuck with someone who wholeheartedly believes the wrong thing, show them a chart, close your mouth and you just might win them over.

Related: The 2-Step Process for Excellent Customer Service

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