How to Convince Your Skeptical Readers to Accept a New Idea
If you look at the last 30 years of the men’s 100-meter finals at the Olympics, you’ll find a number of athletes who didn’t make it to retirement without getting saddled with a doping allegation.
- Carl Lewis: failed drug test, 1988
- Ben Johnson: failed drug test, 1988
- Linford Christie: tests positive for pseudoephedrine, 1988
- Justin Gatlin: failed drug test, 2006
- Maurice Greene: admits to buying performance-enhancing drugs, 2008
And then Usain Bolt comes along. He not only wins the gold in both the 100-meter and 200-meter finals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing — he also breaks two world records for those races.
Can anyone blame you if you’re cynical? Don’t you want some sort of proof that Bolt didn’t use performance-enhancing drugs?
Not surprisingly, so does your reader.
When you write an article, you may do it Usain Bolt-style — full of gusto and glee. Yet, your reader is still skeptical — and rightly so. Stating something does not necessarily make it believable.
So, how do you enhance the believability of your article?
You do so by addressing objections.
When you write your article, it’s important to have it flow both ways — in your favor and away from it — to build trust. You do this by taking on the objections that sprout up in your reader’s mind.
There are three main ways to bypass a reader’s skepticism. Let’s look at all three, shall we?
- Direction 1: Disagreement
- Direction 2: Proof
- Direction 3: More Information
We’ll tackle Disagreement first.
Direction 1: Disagreement
When you make a statement such as: “Discounting is bad for a business,” I may choose to disagree. I may feel that discounting is necessary in my business or else I’d go out of business.
You may have a ton of valid points to support why discounting will suck the life out of my business. And you may be right. But at this specific moment, I’m fiercely on the discounting side of the fence. To get me over to your side, you have to tackle the discounting argument very quickly.
When a topic is highly controversial, or likely to be debated, you need to place the objection right at the top of your article. There’s no point in keeping the objection submerged somewhere down the page.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re losing clients because they’re hiring consulting firms that are cheaper. In this case, your article needs to address the problem head-on.
Your headline may be: Why It’s a Good Idea to Hire a Consulting Firm that Costs 20 Percent More than the Competition. Now you’ve got your reader’s attention.
Present the disagreement immediately. The opening of your article could look like this:
“Imagine going to your boss and telling him that you’ve hired a consultant who’s 20 percent more expensive than average. What will that get you? A raise? Or will you instantly get fired?
The answer is: It depends. Although it seems like a pretty good idea to hire a consulting firm that’s a lot cheaper, you may want to know how that decision will come to bite you (and your firm) in the bum in the months to come. So, let’s find out three big reasons why the big guns don’t hire the cheaper outfits.”
You see what’s happening in that example?
The objection isn’t waiting in the wings. It jumped on stage and is hogging the spotlight. And it doesn’t let go until the rest of the article unfolds. When you present an objection at the start of your article, it gets and keeps attention.
If you know your client is going to disagree like crazy, add an objection right away.
This leads us to the second way to address objections, namely Proof.
Direction 2: Proof
Proof isn’t like disagreement. It’s not quite as volatile.
For instance, you may just need to support a valid point. You may have said that smart firms don’t hire cheaper consultants. Fair enough. But where’s the proof? You need to demonstrate your point with a case study or two.
Testimonials offer another way to back up your claims. No matter how magnificently well you craft your article, there are times when your audience will simply need proof.
Why are they looking for that evidence?
It’s human nature to seek a second opinion. Or maybe the person reading the article doesn’t have the proper knowledge to make a decision and needs to present the argument to someone else.
Second opinions help us justify our decisions. When we have proof, we feel a lot better. We can talk to our partners, coworkers, and friends about the situation and get their opinions about it.
In the case of the person needing to sell the idea to a superior, you can see that evidence is necessary to help make his or her case.
And this leads us to the third method: More information.
Direction 3: More information
If you face a disagreement head-on, that’s all very fine. But often it may not be necessary to go over the top. And having proof is certainly very dandy, but again, case studies and testimonials may not be needed. In many of your articles, all your reader needs is more information. They’re not sure, that’s all.
If you give them more information, they’re more than happy to agree with your point and take the next step.
For example, let’s say your article is about convincing someone to try a new flavor of ice cream. There’s really no factor of disagreement. And proof won’t matter much because taste is subjective. All you really have to do is take on the objection.
And what is the objection? You know the answer. It’s: what if I don’t like the flavor?
To tackle the objection, you simply need to be rational or emotional. But what’s rational and what’s emotional?
Rational is when you simply state the facts. For example: The store doesn’t require you to buy the ice cream. You can taste it and decide for yourself.
The emotional way to defuse an objection is to use a story. For example: My niece, Keira, doesn’t like anything but her usual gum-drop flavor of ice cream. Yet, she was all over this new flavor and even asked for more.
For an even more powerful information package, you can combine both rational and emotional information into a single objection-defuser.
Adding an objection at just the right time
Let’s take a breather and summarize. There are three main ways you can overcome objections.
- Disagreement: You can address a disagreement head-on.
- Proof: You can show proof with case studies and/or testimonials.
- More information: You can add rational or emotional information to defuse the objection.
The objection can go anywhere it is needed in your article. It can go in your introduction. It can be in the middle. It’s most often found toward the end of the article. However, there’s no fixed rule.
If skepticism needs to be managed right away, there’s no point in saving the objection until later. Bring it on with full force as soon as possible.
If you feel the need to create a little “speed bump” and change the pace of the article, slip in an objection.
And yes, you can address more than one objection in an article. Just be sure not to overdo it or you’ll weaken your case.
Earn trust by presenting objections
Does every article need an objection? Can you write a strong article without one? Sure you can.
Many articles don’t need to bring up objections, but there are times when your enthusiasm alone won’t support your point. You’ll need an objection to drive the facts home.
And it helps satisfy that human nature quirk. We’re not saying you’re wrong. We’re just saying, “prove it to me.”
Objections are needed for some articles — but they’re incredibly critical when selling a product or service.
Get a taste of where objections live and thrive in the sales process with this free goodie.
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