Your prospects are programmed to reject you – here’s why
Communication is a fascinating issue. We have more tools and resources to use to communicate our message than at any time in our history. We may have more ways to communicate, but we don’t seem to be much better at getting our message across.
Did you know that our brains are wired to reject new information? Even the most “open-minded” person has difficulty embracing new information. Scientists have discovered that our brains develop several hurdles or gates that information must pass through before we are able to receive new information. These gates are referred to as communication bias and we all have them. I recently listened to the podcast “Learning to See” by Brian McClaren and he explained how these biases keep us from seeing and embracing new information.
A Salesperson’s success is primarily determined by their ability to introduce new products or solutions and communicate the benefits of their solution to their prospects. Understanding how your prospects may be biased against you before you start can help salespeople communicate more effectively with their customers. In the “Learning to See” podcast, Brian identifies 13 unique built-in biases that directly impact our communication. I have highlighted the ones that I think are most relevant to sales conversations.
Confirmation Bias – When new information is presented our brains evaluate the incoming message and compare it to what it already knows. If the data confirms what we already know, we are more likely to accept it. However, if it does not confirm what we know or believe, then we are more likely to reject it.
When a salesperson knows that they are introducing something new, they can help their prospect receive the new information by proactively addressing this bias upfront. The salesperson can begin by asking the client what they know about their solution. As the prospect begins to share what they do or don’t know, they are giving the salesperson valuable insight as to how likely they are to receive it. The salesperson can build a bridge by letting the client know in advance that they are going to be sharing new insights that they may not be familiar with. This will help lower their built-in resistance to the new idea.
Complexity Bias – “The human brain prefers a simple lie to a complex truth.” Complex ideas require the brain to use more energy to assimilate the idea. Given the choice, the brain would rather put that energy into other tasks. If it’s too complex the new idea is rejected.
Salespeople often fall into the trap of trying to impress their prospects with their technical knowledge. They use industry jargon, buzzwords, and acronyms to convince their prospects that they are competent. Salespeople would be much better off if they embraced the KISS method – “Keep it simple, stupid.” It is better to have your client understand a simple idea than to reject a complex one.
Community Bias – It’s extremely hard to see something your group doesn’t want you to see. If you are an employee in an organization that is committed to a certain path or set of ideas, you are unlikely to embrace information that goes against those ideas. We’ve all heard stories about companies that were so committed to their way of doing business that they missed critical opportunities to embrace new ideas . Kodak failed to embrace digital cameras because their model was built using film. Palm Pilot created the first digital organizer and then disappeared because they rejected the idea of adding a phone to it. The list goes on and on.
This is a challenging hurdle for salespeople. Nobody wants to be told that the path they are on is wrong. Companies may have significant investments tied up in the way they are doing business. To navigate this hurdle, salespeople will have to clearly articulate the path forward by helping the client understand both the benefits and risks associated with taking action.
Competency Bias – There is a foundational flaw in human awareness – we don’t know what we don’t know. Our confidence relies on what we know. We tend to think of ourselves as above average, primarily because we don’t know how big the gap is between what we know and what we don’t know.
Salespeople that present a new idea are exposing a prospect's lack of knowledge or incompetence on the subject. For example, suppose you are presenting a solution to a facilities manager responsible for building security. Your company is the first to introduce innovative technology and applications to improve building security, and he is an ideal prospect for your solution.
When presenting your solution, you may get excited about your solution, and how it improves your prospect’s ability to manage security. However, at the same time, you are exposing the fact that your prospect didn’t know about this solution. They may have just made a recommendation for another technology that isn’t going to measure up to yours, creating a scenario that makes them reluctant to want to advance your solution.
Cash Bias – It’s hard to embrace anything that costs us money. Our brains are wired to see within the framework of our economy, and we see what helps us make money or preserve the money we have. How many times have you responded to a sales presentation with “how much is this going to cost?” We are more concerned with the cost of something before we even learn about the potential benefits.
This is the Achilles heel of sales. Prospects always want to know how much something is going to cost before they get too invested in the solution. Salespeople must have a process that addresses the client’s current situation and where they would like to go before presenting the price for their solution. If a prospective client doesn’t have a clearly defined gap between where they are today and where they want to be, the sale is likely to fail. Salespeople must focus on the value their prospects will experience before answering the price question.
Summary - The biases presented above represent the hidden hurdles that make it more difficult to communicate the value of your solution to your prospects. Salespeople must balance their enthusiasm for solving problems with being intentional about how they communicate that solution to their customers. Understanding the built-in biases that keep us from embracing new information can be a significant differentiator in how effectively we present our solution.
mation can be a significant differentiator in how effectively we present our solution.
If you have a question or would like to discuss how to improve the performance of your sales team, click on the link below.