Show your warts and win
  • sales
  • Blog post

Show your warts and win

In the mid-1980s, researchers at Cleveland State University made a startling discovery. They created two fictitious job candidates, Dave and John, with two identical resumes and two nearly identical letters of reference.

The only difference: John’s reference letter included the sentence, “Sometimes, John can be difficult to get along with.”

The researchers sent the letters and resumes out to two different groups of personnel directors. Guess which candidate personnel directors most wanted to interview?

Difficult-to-get-along-with John.

The criticism of John made the letter-writer’s praise seem more believable. That made John look like a stronger candidate. Showing John’s warts actually helped sell John.

But what about the real world?
Sounds great in theory, you say. But what salesperson will stand up and point out the shortcomings of his product or service?

Well, Tom Keacher did. And he’s a wealthier man because of it. A regional sales manager for a company that sells marine service contracts, he used to start presentations by listing every boat engine part that his company covered.

Then he decided to switch tactics, starting his sales presentations by listing every part that the service contract didn’t cover. His conversion rate improved significantly.

Before, customers wondered what Tom wasn’t telling them. After he switched gears, they knew he was a straight shooter.

Admit your weaknesses. Even better, bring them up without being asked. By doing so, you demonstrate that you’re honest and trustworthy.

Adapted from “Selling the Invisible,” by Harry Beckwith. Published by Warner Books.

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