Perception, or reality? Both.
You’ve probably seen pictures of the human brain – a complex structure of lobes, cortices and systems that basically look the same from one (healthy) person to another. Taking a closer look, our brains process information via circuits that connect various parts of the brain to each other. Whilst basic functions such as walking use similar circuits, our thoughts, for example emotions, are processed using complex networks of circuits. These circuits have been created based on our own experiences over time and are therefore individual to our brain.
We all receive, process and map different pieces of information, which means no two brains perceive the world in the same way. We each see the world through our own filters and biases built up over years of creating, and strengthening, those millions of networks in our brains. Many of these filters are unconscious; added to this we often don’t realise that others see things differently to us.
Why is this interesting for people in sales and account management functions? Well, at its core great sales and account management is all about relationships. Believing that people (and therefore your prospects and clients) think the same, make decisions the same way and are motived by the same things as you, or even each other, is a false belief. One that can lead to misunderstanding, conflict, missed opportunities and ultimately loss of sales and customers.
Reflect for a moment and I wager you can find plenty of examples of this in your everyday life. Perhaps a meeting you attended where you came away with an understanding of what had been agreed only to discover the client had a completely different expectation? Or an email where the recipient has read hostility in the tone or words used, when none was intended? Or pretty much any conversation you’ve had with someone who doesn’t vote the same way as you.
Being aware that people think through filters and biases can help to explain why they (and you) make certain decisions. Considering other people’s and your own biases can help you approach situations differently to improve the outcomes.
For example, you’re pitching to a new client. You’ve recently provided a solution to a client in a similar business, so you offer the same solution to the new client. Are you viewing the problem through an availability bias; making a decision with the information most readily available rather than taking the time to really hear the new client’s needs?
Likewise, the availability of information on their current supplier may make it easier for a time-poor prospect to stay with them, rather than find out more about how your company could improve their business. To counteract, can you make the process easier for them?
Similarity biases are when people prefer people similar to them. As a sales person you may experience this when a prospect prefers to deal with someone who went to their school, has the same background, lives in their area or knows people they know. To counteract, do you have other areas in common? Do you have a diverse team you can involve in the bid?
Loss aversion bias is where someone is more motivated by avoiding a loss. For example, a client may be more motivated to go with a product that will mitigate the loss of $100,000 in their business, rather than one that will deliver $100,00 in additional revenue. To counteract, learn what’s important to your clients and what’s happening in their business.
Sunk cost biases are very interesting. This is where people don’t want to let go of something even if it’s not working because they’ve invested time, money or effort into it. Have you ever identified a solution to a client’s problem, only to have them reply that they’ve invested too much time and money trying to get the old process to work to change now? That’s the sunk cost fallacy. Counteracting with arguments that bring loss aversion biases into play may work here.
The endowment effect is expecting others to pay more for something we own than we would pay if someone else owned it. (I see this one on that selling houses TV show all the time.) Are you sense checking your costing and pricing models?
The list goes on and on – type “cognitive biases” into google and you’ll find over 100 more.
The bottom line? Perception is reality. How each of us perceives the world determines how we will respond to the situations around us. If you want to understand someone better, and therefore work better together, put yourself in their shoes from time to time, and see if you can perceive their reality.
Next blog I’ll explain why you should be interested in your clients’ dopamine levels.
 I’ve written here about how to make meetings more effective.
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