June 22, 2015

Your Sales Biases Are Hurting Your Productivity

Are you blinded by your sales biases?

blinders wearing manWhat are your sales biases? Are you even aware that you have sales biases? And how they are hurting your productivity?

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. And, they stop learning.

I know it sounds strange to say it, but in some ways experience can be the downfall of a salesperson. The salesperson who believes that he or she has it all figured out, and who believes that the path to success is based on replicating their previous experiences time and time again, is in for a wake up call. Because, once you begin to believe that you know absolutely everything there is to know about your prospects, their business, their requirements and their motivations, your sales biases begin to kick in.

The problem is that your prospects and customers exist in a world that is constantly evolving and, in turn, they are changing their requirements and behaviors in response to it. In fact, your prospects will change in response to the actions you take in selling to them. The salesperson with the static world view will suddenly find himself or herself on the outside looking in.

It’s perfectly natural for salespeople to develop an experience bias, otherwise known as a 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 experiences 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.

How many sales biases do you have?
Sales is not the only job where this experience-based bias slows down desired outcomes. My wife is a medical educator and attended a workshop at a professional conference where researchers discussed a study of doctors in which they identified 125 possible biases, pre-dispositions if you will, that doctors unconsciously use as filters when they evaluate and diagnose patients.

Think about this the next time you visit a doctor. Based on his or her accumulated experiences with previous patients, the physician will pass your description of your symptoms through their 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 nearly as serious as medicine, your desired sales outcomes can be negatively affected in a similar way by your experience bias. Do salespeople have 125 possible biases at work in their selling? Possibly. How about this classic sales bias? “Those are bad sales leads. I can tell just by looking at them” (even though you didn’t.)

Don’t let your sales biases keep you from learning
The difficulty with sales biases is that they become molded into absolutes in the mind of the salesperson. As a result, even experienced salespeople stop truly listening and learning from their prospects and customers.

To make sure that you aren’t being slowed down by your experience biases, you have to consciously acknowledge and fight them. Every prospect and customer are unique. A sales interaction with a prospect shouldn’t be like watching an episode of your favorite TV show for the 30th time in which you can recite every line of dialog. Don’t assume in advance that you know what they prospect is going to say.

Think of your sales experience as a work-in-progress that is never completed. Treat every sales situation as an opportunity to learn something new about your prospects and their business.

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