… but outlines a really interesting idea

By Tariq Khwaja:

This post is scantly researched and hurriedly written. But I think it outlines a really interesting and practical marketing idea.

It was inspired by an article in the latest copy of Influence magazine about the surprising benefits of leading with the weaknesses of your proposition in any kind of sales pitch.

Sounds odd, right? But I think there’s a lot of truth in it. And it’s an idea I’ve written about before.

The article focuses on one entrepreneur who uses this approach when presenting to his board and pitching to potential investors. He’s discovered he gets a far more favourable response doing this than taking the more traditional method of selling the positives.

I think the article is right in pinpointing several reasons why this can be a powerful technique. And using it skilfully can work in a wide range of situations – from job interviews to business presentations and sales pitches.

Firstly, the article argues it surprises people and disarms them. People expect to be sold on benefits and subconsciously raise their defences, galvanising themselves to disbelieve what they’re going to be told. Being confronted with the weaknesses of your proposition instead not only catches their attention: they drop their defences and become much more receptive to what you have to say. They may even leap to your defence and argue your case for you.

Secondly, the article claims stressing negatives as well as positives makes you appear more trustworthy. You’re being honest about the bad as well as the good, so people are far more likely to believe you. I think this is the most significant effect.

Thirdly, the article suggests recognising negatives makes you look smarter and cites research studies which back this up. People are more likely to buy into what they believe to be an intelligent, discerning review than the shiny gloss of a sales pitch.

On top of these, there’s another reason I think this approach works – especially when you’re selling yourself in some form – which the article doesn’t address.

It’s about ensuring likeability as I’ve explored previously here.

Selling yourself – or something you’ve personally created – inevitably involves outlining your strengths. But doing that crudely comes across as smug and boastful. People buy from people they like, and no-one likes a smart arse.

But acknowledging your weaknesses first balances this and enables you to get away with stressing your strengths without sounding arrogant. More than that, it can help build rapport and empathy.

Of course, you need to do this all with skill and integrity. Hammering on about your overwhelming weaknesses with little mention of your strengths will get you nowhere.

The skill is to highlight flaws that aren’t fatal and present a overall picture that’s compellingly positive on balance if you’re to win the buy-in you want.


How could you turn your weaknesses to your advantage?