What are your sales biases? And how are they tripping you up?

We have all seen this situation. An experienced salesperson who had been hitting his numbers, and who was considered to have lots of potential, suddenly stops improving. One month, one quarter, one year later he has gone from being an up and comer to someone who is struggling a bit. Throughout this entire period you have been coaching this person to see if you could turn the tide. The problem was that it didn’t appear that the salesperson was doing anything differently or wrong. And yet, there he was. Stuck.

One of the primary reasons that salespeople stop improving and start struggling is that they begin to believe that they know what they are doing. What? I know it sounds strange to say it but experience can be the downfall of a salesperson. The salesperson who believes that he or she has it all figured out thinks the path to success is to replicate that experience time and time again. They begin to believe that they know everything there is to know about their prospects, their business, their requirements and their motivations. The problem is that your prospects and customers exist in a world that is constantly evolving and they are changing their requirements and behaviors in response to it. The salesperson with the static world view will suddenly find himself on the outside looking in.

This salesperson has developed an experience, or sales, bias. The dictionary says that a bias is “the inclination to present or hold a partial perspective at the expense of (possibly valid) alternatives.” In this case, the biased salesperson assumes from a limited sample set of experience and success, that all customers for his or her product have the same requirements, evaluate products the same way, make decisions in the same fashion and can be sold in the same manner. When a seller rejects change to their view of their sales world then they begin to slide down the proverbial slippery slope.

Sales is not the only job where this experience-based bias slows down desired outcomes. My wife is a medical educator and recently attended a conference workshop where researchers discussed a study of doctors in which they identified 125 possible biases, pre-dispositions if you will, that doctors unconsciously use while evaluating and diagnosing patients. When you are sick and visiting a doctor, the physician will, based on their accumulated experiences with previous patients, pass your words and symptoms through the filter of 125 possible biases before they arrive at their diagnosis. A story was recounted of a physician whose standard response to any patient with a certain set of symptoms was to say, “Oh, when they say that they are always lying.” The impact of these biases can be deadly as life-threatening problems get overlooked and go undiagnosed because the doctor always examines them through the lens of their biases.

While selling is not necessarily as serious as medicine the outcomes are negatively affected in a similar way by an experience bias. Do salespeople have 125 possible biases at work in their selling? Possibly. How about this perennial bias? “Those are bad leads. I can tell just by looking at them” (even though they didn’t.) Or, how about the classic sales bias: “I never trust a lead that I didn’t develop myself.”

The difficulty with these sales biases is that they become molded into absolutes in the mind of the seller. To make sure that you aren’t being slowed down by your experiences what you have to do is continually fight your biases. Use your experience as a platform to build upon. Treat every sales situation as a new learning opportunity instead of an episode of a summer sitcom to be watched again.

What sales biases do you fight in your selling? Leave a comment and we’ll share the best stories.

Andy Paul is a leading expert on the speed of selling, an in demand speaker and the author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling, 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales. He is also the founder of Zero-Time Selling, Inc. a sales strategy, consulting and training firm that specializes in working with CEOs and managers to optimize sales results and maximize the return on their investment in sales. Visit Andy’s website at www.zerotimeselling.com. He can be reached at andy@zerotimeselling.com.

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