Categories of Buyer Resistance

It is not enough to know whether people are for or against you and your ideas and proposals. The people you want to influence can be divided into nine categories:

Those who

  • Covertly disagree
  • Openly disagree
  • Comply – reluctantly
  • Remain undecided
  • Have insufficient information
  • Are not able to see a need
  • Need to think it over
  • Consider it the wrong time
  • Have to refer the decision to others

You will need a different strategy depending on what stage the person to be influenced is at. Be realistic about your chances – it is unlikely that others will move from open disagreement to active support. The best you may achieve is to move them to neutral – but that’s victory!

Covert Disagreement

‘Well, Ok, if that’s what you want.’

The customer thinks to himself: ‘What a load of nonsense – I’m not doing that.’

These people are actively working against you. Gently transform their energy into a willingness to talk openly about their concerns. Once you have done this, you can then:

  • Work to build rapport and a positive relationship
  • Stress areas of agreement before moving onto areas of disagreement
  • Use humor and positive anecdotes
  • Meet regularly to develop a working relationship
  • Respect their position, promote your own

Open Disagreement

Hmm – it might be possible, but I doubt it…

People who disagree need time to come around to your way of thinking.

  • Support your statements with proof and evidence
  • Use statistics and numbers accurately and appropriately; avoid trickery
  • Be clear about areas of agreement and disagreement
  • Ask little and get it, rather than a lot and be turned down
  • Demonstrate ways in which you understand their viewpoint
  • Show that you seek a ‘win-win’ outcome

Reluctant Compliance

Well, if that’s what you want, that’s what we’ll have to do.’

Link your point of view to the compliant person’s feelings, values and concerns to move him or her towards actively supporting your ideas.

  • Stress connections between your proposal or position and the person’s interests
  • Avoid complex arguments
  • Focus on simple and vivid points and benefits
  • Be prepared to repeat these in many different forms
  • Stress mutual benefits
  • Point out mutual losses, if your ideas aren’t accepted


I’m just not sure it will work.’

Work to tip the scales in your favor.

  • Focus on your side of the issue
  • Re-state mutual benefits
  • Minimize/solve problem issues
  • Support your case with expert evidence
  • Cite cases when similar proposals or ideas have been successful
  • Break your proposal down into small, more acceptable action items
  • Follow up (in writing?) to avoid the person slipping back into indecision

No Information/Insufficient Information

‘I need more background information before I can make a decision.’

Find out what information is missing or needed.

  • Back it with proof and evidence
  • Avoid swamping the other person with too much info
  • Invite questions and requests for clarification
  • Get the person to agree that the information is sufficient and acceptable
  • Make your information lively and attractive

Not Able To See A Need

‘I just don’t think we have a need for that right now.’

Acknowledge need is the bedrock of acceptance:

  • Conduct more detailed fact-finding
  • Get agreement along the way that needs exist
  • Ask what may happen if these needs remain unfulfilled
  • Illustrate how similar needs have been met for others
  • Create a summary of the specific benefits of your suggestion

Need To Think It Over

Hmm – I must give this some thought. Can you come back next month?’

Some people do need time to think things through. Establish aspects of the idea they need to think about: ‘What exactly is that you want to think over … (Don’t pause here) … is it x, or y, or z?

  • Reiterate the main benefits of your proposals
  • Clarify any misunderstandings
  • Solve any remaining problems or issues
  • Make positive use of any delay
  • Provide a written summary of your ideas and the benefits

Wrong Time

‘It’s a bad time for us to be making decisions like this.’

Assuming this is a genuine and not a delaying tactic, you can use the waiting time to your mutual advantage.

  • Ask when would be an appropriate time
  • Use the time delay to road test your ideas, organize a dry run, double check your plans

And Finally – Referring the Decision to Others

‘I’ll need to have a word with my partner and come back to you.’

You should already have established that the person you are attempting to influence has the authority to say ‘yes’.

In which case, ask ‘Are you happy with what I am suggesting?’ If the person is happy, suggest that you both take the issue to the higher authority and work as a team to get final agreement.