You are sure to have watched a basketball game before where one of the teams suddenly goes lazy in the middle of their game. Before we know what happened they are down by 20 points due to missing 13 shots consecutively. When they finally head towards a possible next possession you can’t help thinking that they are sure to score now. They are past due, aren’t they? The fact of it is that the team is no more likely to score after missing 13 shots than they were when they missed the first.
We call this thinking gambler’s delusion where a person is convinced that somehow all things have to average out at some point. It is our minds that are prone to these types of biases by nature and in certain fields, specific inclinations is sure to play quite a significant role in your general success. Biases can turn out to be a representative’s worst nightmare. They can cause them to jump to the wrong conclusions with regards to a prospect or even themselves which could very well result in losing a deal.
Realizing that we are all inclined to have biases goes a long way in overcoming possible negative effects we may experience due to it. In this piece we will be looking at 12 different psychological biases we could all fall prey to and we learn how salespeople could be affected by them.
Twelve Biases of the Psyche that Affect How We Sell
- Anchoring Bias: When talking about this kind we are talking about its ability to make us overemphasize the first thing we learn and we then use it as the only criteria for decision making. When we grab onto the first pain point a prospective client brings up, making it the be-all and end-all of the project and all facts that may come to light later is of less importance, we are suffering from anchoring bias. We need to keep in mind that the first pain point a potential client raises may not be as important as it seems. Reps do need to solve the client’s issues but solving a problem of lower importance would not get you the client like dealing with a high-priority issue would. Reps need to spend some time in order to get to know as much as they possibly can about their prospects by ways of conducting research and asking the right questions. A salesperson would not be able to advise their prospects effectively if they do not have an exact understanding of the potential client’s pain points and goals.
- Hyperbolic Discounting: When people are to choose between two rewards that are similar, we usually opt for the one that we would receive earlier. To take an example, if you could get $20 now or $30 after a few months, chances are you will choose option one. Hyperbolic discounting is where salespeople take advantage of this human bias, where they knock a percentage off of the price in order to influence your decision making process and reach their quotas quickly but in doing so they fail to plan for the long term and they don’t work on the timeline that their prospect set. It may be very tempting to get a deal signed quickly by offering discounts but a rep also needs to prioritize the relationship’s benefits in the long run. You are much better off having a loyal customer for years than a prospect that just stays for a couple of months.
- Confirmation Bias: This is where you interpret info in a way that will confirm your own beliefs. You can easily fall victim to this when you ask questions that steer a prospect into giving specific answers that you may be on the lookout for. An example of this would be where a sales rep may feel new onboarding software may be beneficial to the prospect. They may then ask a question like, “Would you be pleased when new employees produce improved results quickly?” Obviously the answer is going to be a resounding yes but it is not necessarily the answer to the question if they need new onboarding software. It is, without a doubt, of great help to have assumptions based on research before you approach a prospect but reps have to keep in mind that they have to be open to new details and be willing to admit that their educated guess may not be the right one.
- Clustering Illusion: When you convince yourself that there is a pattern in an entirely random set of events you can be sure that you have fallen prey to the clustering illusion. In this case a rep continuously uses one sales strategy just because it worked on a few prospects previously. This bias may be the reason for the existence of the sales script. The thinking here is if it worked on one of your prospects it is bound to work on the others. A pattern of success proven with a few prospects is definitely more than okay but this shouldn’t play to big a role in how you approach all of your future prospects. There is no one solution to fit every prospect and having such a mentality may result in a bunch of losses of prospects and less won deals. Keeping in mind that each prospect has individual ideas and dealing with each one in a personal manner will ensure that you connect with your prospects in a pure way which will enable you to provide value of significance.
- Planning Delusion: This occurrence takes place when you underestimate the time needed for completion of a task immensely. After a rep does just a bit of work before phoning their prospect and it goes well, they could easily start thinking that they do not need to spend a lot of time to be successful. The planning delusion makes a rep believe that they can achieve exceptional results by doing very little. The key to success is allowing enough time to do each one of your task to the best of your ability instead of doing as little as possible and expecting phenomenal results from that.
- The Curse of Knowledge: This is when you cannot relate to the issues an uninformed person faces due to the fact that you have excellent information at your disposal. Once a rep is aware of the fact that their product may hold some benefit for a prospect, they may easily fall prey to the curse of knowledge because they more often than not don’t listen to the objections their prospect may arise because they feel they know better. They rather go into an attitude of, “Trust me. I have seen this work a million times” without listening to the worries a prospect has and explaining away the confusion they may experience. These reps need to act as an advisor of note instead of maintaining that the product addresses the concern a prospect has. By ways of customer reviews, sound reasoning and testimonials reps may be able to handle objections effectively but education remains key. It becomes obvious that a prospective client doesn’t understand your product as well as they should if they keep asking questions that are disguised as objections. At this point they don’t care if the product works or not but rather if it would work for them.
- The Galatea Effect: This effect states that you will become a top performer if that is what you believe yourself to be, if you carry that mindset. The Galatea effect comes into play when a rep believes that they don’t or didn’t need any help to win or lose a deal. In cases where deals go bad, they often start questioning their skills and this could lead to even worse performance in future. On the flipside, when things go well, the boost in confidence can form the base for a streak of successful calls. This bias can be overcome when the rep examines each of the factors of every call while listening to a manager’s coaching and in so doing they will remain objective. The major role in a prospects decision remains the rep but we need to remember that there are many other factors that play a role in whether the prospect buys or not.
- Choice Bias: This bias often sees us viewing our past choices in retrospect in a positive light and we end up overemphasizing the negative attributes of the options we decided against. In the world of sales, choice bias has an impact on your response to making mistakes. In cases where prospects turn out to be a mismatch, this bias has an influence on how fast you accept your mistake and get over it. It can also keep you from being too hard on yourself as you will remember the positive side of things and not focus on the negative side. If you want to be successful you need to pay attention to all information as it appears when and where it is relevant. You will need the ability to recognize when your plan did not deliver the intended result instead of convincing yourself that all of your decisions are exceptional. Your mistakes can be a great tool if you learn from them.
- Recency Bias: This bias is where we tend to believe recently emerging patterns will continue in future even when this thought is contradicted by long term data. When a rep abandons strategies they have tested over time in favor of cohesions in their last few deals they have fallen for the bias of recency. The new data may be exciting but it could lead you in the wrong direction. When taking stats over a longer period you are sure to have more trustworthy and accurate data. Keep in mind that once these cohesions remain consistent over a longer period of time, these new insights may be utilized by reps in conversations in future. Going with one’s gut shouldn’t even be a factor in modern day sales but rather go with hard data.
- Gambler Delusion: This is when one believes an occurrence isn’t likely to happen again in future because it is presently happening on a continuous basis even if a specific event has no impact statistically on future events. When a rep has made around 5 bad decisions they may believe that the next decision will be a better one, once again because things will average out but in such a scenario they do not realize that the calls they made before has no impact on the next one. The thing that makes this bias dangerous is that reps feel that things will change for the better without them needing to change their behavior. By taking a closer look at why the deal bombed and making strategic changes you can avoid falling into this trap. Don’t try the same wrong method time and time again but rather change your tactics to put an end to your streak of negative results.
- Hot Hand Delusion: This is the other side of the coin to the gambler’s delusion. The salesperson is under the false impression that if they succeed or fail at something presently, this streak is sure to continue in the future because of this one event. To use an example, a rep that closes many deals consecutively may conclude that each of his calls will be effortless and he has then succumbed to the hot hand delusion. The successes of the deals are a direct result of the hard work that went into them and not due to the rep suddenly becoming hot. In the end it comes down to the fact that a rep’s success is determined by sales fundamentals like having a great relationship with a prospect, research and hard work. This is what converts a prospect, not a sudden unexplained hot streak.
- Empathy Gap: This phenomenon occurs when we can’t imagine ourselves in another’s position if we are not in the same boat at that moment. Like when you are angry, you sometimes find it hard to see how others can be in a good mood. When a prospect and a rep are in entirely different moods, the rep has to consciously put themselves in the same boat as the prospective customer and not minimize or dismiss their feelings. The gap in empathy makes it harder for the parties to reach a common understanding and could easily lead to disdain arising between the prospect and sales representative which, in turn, could spoil the relationship between them even before it is built.
In essence we are not aware of the biases we have, nor do we know how it affects our behavior in a specific situation. We can, however, learn to identify our biases and adjust negative behaviors according to this. It is a well-known fact that sales are an extremely emotional career and if you want to be successful in it you need to stay on top of your emotions.