You want to woo an important client, so you list all the wonderful features of your product or service. Then you add, “And we earned ‘honorable mention’ at a recent award ceremony.”
Oops. That last comment hurt your cause.
To win over others, it’s tempting to recite every possible reason why they should accept your proposal. But beware of going overboard. If you provide three superior selling points and then mention a relatively minor or less impressive feature, that add-on can undermine the case you’re trying to build.
Psychologists call this the Presenter’s Paradox: We assume that more is better when we try to convince others when, in fact, limiting our pitch to only the most appealing reasons works better.
In the above example, you may cite three outstanding features of your product that the client rates as 10, 10 and 10 (on a 1-to-10 scale). By adding your “honorable mention” award, which the client rates as 2, the “impressiveness total” is 32. Instinctively, you may think 32 beats 30 so you’re a better salesperson if you raise your score.
Yet people don’t add each bit of impressiveness to render a judgment; instead, they arrive at an average based on all your reasons. So if you mention three stellar features, the client thinks in terms of (10+10+10)/3 = 10. If you add a fourth feature that’s less special, this rates (10+10+10+2)/4 = 8 in impressiveness.
The key to persuading is to stick to your best arguments—and jettison the rest.
— Adapted from The Presentation Mistake You’re Probably Making, Heidi Grant Halvorson, www.psychologytoday.com.