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What Is 'Persuasion Resistance (Reactance)'?

One of the things that makes prospects uncomfortable around salespeople is the feeling that they’re going to get the “hard sell” or be tricked into agreeing to something that’s not in their best interest. Persuasion Resistance is a natural defense against pressure.

Reactance occurs when a prospect senses that someone is trying to compel them to do something; they automatically resist and attempt to move away from the conversation.

Desperation is a negative trust signal.

Chasing is a threat signal.

It’s much better to present yourself with confidence.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Persuasion Resistance'

One of the things that makes prospects uncomfortable around salespeople is the feeling that they’re going to get the “hard sell” or be tricked into agreeing to something that’s not in their best interest. This experience is called Persuasion Resistance, and it’s a major barrier to making sales.

When a prospect senses that someone is trying to convince or compel them to do something they’re not sure about, they automatically resist and attempt to move away from the conversation. This is particularly true in situations where the salesperson is trying to force a choice or limit the prospect’s available options in some way.

Psychologists call this reactance, and it appears in early childhood. Every parent has experienced the fallout of telling a child they “can’t” or “have to” do something. Prospects react in much the same way when a salesperson attempts to pressure a sale, resisting out of an instinct to preserve their autonomy. The harder the salesperson pushes, the more the prospect resists. That’s why hard-sell approaches usually fail to generate sustainable results.

The more effective strategy, in the words of the renowned sales expert Zig Ziglar, is to present yourself to the prospect as an “assistant buyer.” Your job is not to sell the prospect a bill of goods: it’s to help them make an informed decision about what’s best for them. You’re not pressuring them to give you their money: you’re helping to ensure they invest their resources wisely.

This basic Reinterpretation of your role in the sales process works: it eliminates the prospect’s feeling of pressure by convincing them you’re looking out for their best interests.

Salespeople need to be aware of two additional signals that can trigger Persuasion Resistance: desperation and chasing. Sending either signal during any part of the sales process will reduce the number and size of the Transactions you close.

If a prospect feels that you’re desperate to make a sale, it diminishes their interest in a matter of seconds. Desperation is a subtle signal that other people don’t find your offer desirable, and Social Proof starts working against you. In the same way that people don’t want to date a person who desperately wants to be in a relationship, prospects don’t want to do business with a person who desperately wants or needs their money.

It’s much better to present yourself with confidence, in a way that signals your offer is valuable, is a good fit for the prospect, and will be a wise investment of the prospect’s money. If you don’t genuinely believe that, you need to find something else to sell.


If a prospect senses you’re chasing them, their first impulse will be to move away from you. “Chasing” and “being chased” are evolutionary patterns that our primal minds recognize very quickly. For centuries, human beings have chased things that are desirable, and have been chased by threats. Even if we wouldn’t consciously label a situation as “chasing” or “being chased,” our minds notice and respond automatically.

Chasing a prospect to make a sale is counterproductive: a waste of time and energy. Instead, find ways to Frame the situation in a way that encourages the prospect to feel like they’re chasing you. If your prospect feels like they need to justify why they’re good enough to work with you, you’re in a very strong position to make a sale on favorable terms.

We’ll discuss additional ways our primal minds view our modern environment in Caveman Syndrome. For now, it’s important to remember that these social signals may seem silly at best or manipulative at worst, but that doesn’t make them any less real or important. By understanding how your prospects evaluate offers, you can plan your pitch in a way that minimizes Persuasion Resistance and encourages the prospect to Desire what you have to offer.

If you’re interested in exploring these signals in more detail, I recommend reading Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff.

Questions About 'Persuasion Resistance'


"Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect."

W. Clement Stone, insurance salesman, philanthropist, and author


From Chapter 3:

Sales


https://personalmba.com/persuasion-resistance/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

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