“The enemy is a very good teacher.”
Resistance to Authority
I enjoy talking to prospective clients and I find that you can learn a lot about them and the kind of clients they are likely to be from their questions and responses. As a ghostwriter, I’m usually talking to subject-experts who are highly proficient in their field and looking either to establish or cement their authority status. I find it fascinating that their concern is whether I’m an expert in their subject as well.
I was talking to two prospective co-author candidates the other day, and it was one of the best illustrations of this that I have seen. They were experienced, knowledgeable, and highly skilled experts in their field having invested as many years in their field as I have in my writing and research skills. They knew they could not write this book themselves, yet their main pre-occupation was with whether I had the same level of subject expertise.
This kind of resistance occurs in many fields… in fact, it’s the biggest reason why business owners need to establish their authority: you may never be able to convince the people who want to demonstrate their power, but you won’t have to if you have a full pipeline of people who appreciate your expertise.
What Can You Learn from Others’ Resistance?
You can learn a lot about other people from their response to your positioning… and, yes, you can also learn some lessons about what you need to change as well. The classical philosophers and ancient spiritual writers wrote what most parents discover early on: the things that irritate them most about others are the things that are reflected in themselves. Resistance in clients or prospects frequently emerges from the need to protect their own insecurities or as a power play. It’s not easy to accept, but if you’re honest with yourself when you are most agitated, angry, and irritated by someone it’s because it exposed your own nerve. The same thing happens in sales meetings, especially when there is a lot riding on the outcome for one party (or both) because the fact that you are talking to a ‘supplier’ means that the buyer has a need, yet often their insecurity will not let them acknowledge the depth of their need and it is much easier for them to cede their power to a recognised expert who can demonstrate that authority than to ‘just anyone.’
Is it Worth the Frustration?
This is an important question to ask.
You can overcome almost any prospect’s resistance enough for them to buy your product or service if you really want to, but you need to consider whether it will be worth the ongoing frustration. In some cases it won’t matter, but if you are coaching or working closely with a person or team it is incredibly important.
You probably know some people who always need to win the point even if it’s just by wearing down the opposition through verbiage and other people who will argue and discuss extensively and then acknowledge the validity of the offer and be fully compliant. GPs encounter this situation regularly, medical specialists are less likely to do so. The threefold lesson for business owners is to ask:
- What kind of people do I want to work with: those who will argue every step of the way, or those who, once convinced, will accept my prescription;
- How can I build my authority so that I encounter less pushback and can more easily distinguish the inveterate resisters from the non-yet-convinced adopters?
- Am I doing or saying (or failing to do and say) certain things that would be more convincing?
It’s easy to take pushback as a personal affront to your authority especially if you are struggling to attract clients. However, most of them time, it’s about them rather than you. In the case of the prospective clients I mentioned at the start of this article, their pushback arose from lack of understanding and they just needed some time to absorb what I was saying. We both learned something from the experience: they realised that I didn’t need to know their subject as thoroughly as they do to write a persuasive book, I realised that I needed to explain certain aspects of the process more effectively… I also realised the power of recording these sessions so that participants could review them later.
Resistance is a Powerful Tool…
“You’re either winning or you’re learning.” I don’t know who said this first, but it certainly applies to the resistance you encounter along the way.
Resistance will help you refine your presentations and incite you to hone your authority to the point where when you say anything your audience says, ‘Amen’. It may also help you distinguish those prospects who will be a constant nightmare to work with from those who will co-operate and support your efforts on their behalf.