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Conquer skepticism to sell your ideas

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Persuading others—from the CEO to the receptionist—is daunting. You can present an airtight argument, but overcoming the other person’s skepticism can prove nearly impossible. Unless they consider your views with an open mind, you’re doomed.

Take these steps to win them over:

Cite past, not future. Uphold your points with recent evidence. Avoid staking your case on future scenarios. Example: If a boss doubts you can produce results on a tight budget, show how you’ve just finished a project on a shoestring. That’s better than making predictions or promises.

Express even more skepticism. If someone’s dubious, acknowledge it. Don’t ignore or brush aside their doubts.

But saying, “I know you’re skeptical and I understand why” sometimes isn’t enough. Go a step further and emphasize that you, too, are skeptical. In fact, insist that you’ve already been battling deep doubts and you’ve reached some extraordinary conclusions. Now you’ve got the other person’s attention. Guide them through your evolution from a severe skeptic to a true believer.

Seek guidance. Encourage foot-draggers to explain why they’re reluctant to agree with you. For example, ask, “What would it take for you to consider this more seriously?” It may take them a few tries before they can articulate why they’re hesitant to buy into your argument. But once you allow them to share their views—and you listen patiently—you may relieve them of at least some of their skepticism.

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