Have you ever found yourself in a position with prospects when they begin to make a point or state a particular opinion that embraces an entirely false premise? Sure you have, and so have I.

You immediately recognize that their understanding and therefore their logic is flawed. They are wrong, and you realize that unless you are able to clarify the initial error in their thinking you will not be able to help them achieve their goals or satisfy yours. You will not be able to complete the sale.

But, you’re wrong!

One of the most challenging situations for a salesperson arises when a prospect makes a false or erroneous statement on which their final decision will be partially or wholly based. The issue must be clarified and their misunderstanding corrected in order for you to earn their respect and trust. You also know instinctively that you should not continue with your presentation until this particular point is properly addressed and their agreement of understanding and acceptance has been clearly and favorably established. 

As with many other aspects of a sales presentation, there may be dozens of ways to handle this situation; but only a couple of options will actually work to achieve all of your objectives. The worst thing that you can do is to immediately tell them that they are wrong. Prospects do not like being wrong. Do you?

How to tell them they are wrong:

1. Do nothing (immediately, that is). Allow them to complete their thought and finish their statement. If you want to make friends, be liked and respected, allow them to talk and completely describe their premise. Never interrupt or appear to be in too much of a hurry to respond and prove them wrong.

2. Take a breath (before responding). Count to at least seven before responding. Even though their premise is wrong – it is important to understand that this is their perception or belief; and it should never be immediately challenged. Choose your first words very carefully, as they will either reinforce your opportunity for successfully transforming their perceptions or produce fast rejection and failure with these prospects.

3. Repeat their understanding (in your own words). This step is critical. Often when confronted with their misunderstanding in words other than theirs the error in their assumption may become immediately apparent to them. In any event, you will at least solidify your understanding of their premise.

4. Recognize that you understand and empathize with their concern.  
Lead with a response that is non-threatening and not patronizing:
“I understand”
“I appreciate where you’re coming from”
“I can see why you feel that way”
“Many others have initially had the same understanding”

5. Provide your input. (Carefully, very carefully) Do not begin your explanation with words like "but" or "don’t." These are negative words that make previous statements seem worthless or trite. Consider these phrases:
“My investigations have shown”
“After close scrutiny others have found”
“Have you considered the possibility...”

6. Get their agreement in their own words. Be sure to get their agreement to your point of view or solution to the issue prior to moving on. They must verbalize their understanding. The words must leave their lips. Once this has been accomplished they are highly unlikely to bring this matter up as an opposition to moving forward with the sale.

7. Thank them for their understanding. This will show them that you appreciate their reflection and decision to alter their previous point of view. They must never consider the subject as a dispute or win/lose situation.

If you use the recommendations provided you will increase your likeability and professional stature in the eyes of your prospects. You will have helped them to gain knowledge, understanding and confidence in their decision-making process. Best of all you will have kept their self-esteem intact while enhancing your image. You will then be better able to help them make the right decisions in the future.