I can think of several good reasons you should not read this post. Of all my ideas for helping you be more persuasive, this may be the craziest one yet. Plus, it takes a lot of skill and confidence to even try to pull it off, and if you screw it up, it will definitely backfire on you.
I’ve actually thought this for a long time, because I’ve seen how it works in my own sales efforts, but I’ve held off on writing a post about this because of the very real concerns I listed above. But Adam Grant wrote about it in his book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, and his evidence for the effectiveness of the tactic is what gives me the confidence to finally roll it out to the world.
I call it unselling, and Grant calls it the Sarick Effect. It’s an approach that involves telling people right up front all the reasons they should not accept your idea—getting all the negatives out on the table right away. When it’s done right, it can be an extremely powerful way to a) get agreement and b) sustain that agreement. In his book, Grant relates the story of Rufus Griscom of Babble, who began his 2009 pitch to potential investors with a slide telling them five reasons not to invest. He walked away with $3.3 million. Two years later, he pitched Disney and told them why buying his company was a bad idea. They bought it for $40 million.
I’ve had the same experience myself many times in my selling career. I’ve used unselling in several different ways, one of which I will share here. When a company approaches me about sales training, I sometimes push back on the premise that sales training is truly what they need. I question whether they might not need to look at their compensation structure or their sales strategies or even hiring practices before investing in training their sales force. Invariably, they start telling me all the reasons they’re convinced that sales training is exactly what they need.
Why does it work? Here are seven reasons. The first four are Grant’s reasons. While I agree with his reasons, I’ve added three more reasons of my own.
So, there are very good reasons to unsell. But the reasons against it that I cited in the opening paragraph are also true, so if you decide to try it, there are some important points to keep in mind. First, the reasons you give against your idea have to be reasonable. If they’re just transparently strawman arguments, a smart audience will see right through them and the tactic will backfire. Second, they should be reasons the audience would reasonably have thought of on their own; no need to give them free ammunition. Finally, of course, be absolutely certain your positives outweigh your negatives.
Does unselling work? You’ve made it this far, so what do you think?
 You will have to read his book to find out why.