Have you become trapped in your own mindset – convinced you are selling a commodity or that even you yourself have become commoditized? Are you falling prey to confirmation bias when you sell? Well, sellers, it’s time to wake up and start thinking differently.
Let’s start with the basics. What is the confirmation bias? Put simply, it is our brain’s tendency to interpret new information as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. In layman’s terms, it’s the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses as the truth and reality. If we are all wired this way, it will take work to objectively analyze a situation. Now that’s real head shaping isn’t it? Are you seeing why I say it’s time to wake up?
Consider a long-term opportunity or long-term client. Your mental model may, in fact, be guiding this client or deal toward price—a lower price. Here are some questions and tips to challenge your thinking:
Step #1 — What is happening in the buying center?
- Has it changed, any piece of it? Are you sure? Dig deep on this one. Recently, we worked with a seller who, for the past six years, had been operating based on how things ‘had been’. This seller continued to engage with the same people who had always made the purchasing decisions in the past. However, during the last stage, with one week to submit the bid, the seller learned there was a newly formed procurement group who would be running the process. His brain told him nothing had changed—the people who had purchased from him in the past would purchase from him in the future. In the end, he lost a huge deal because the competitor was working with procurement all along and placed the winning bid. Don’t be this guy!
- Also, you should always be networking with other parts of your customer’s organization, searching for users and influencers. Map every member of your customer’s buying center, and if you get stuck at the buyer, gatekeeper, user, it’s time to change your approach! Be more aggressive with your networking strategy.
Step #2 – Spend time, or more time, developing qualifying questions
- Invariably in Negotiating with Backbone workshops, we hear from salespeople, “Man, I’m not spending enough time thinking about what questions to ask and who I need to meet with.” Time and again, we hear about the fire drills and administrative work keeping sellers from strategizing about great questions to ask. One of the most difficult exercises we do in Negotiating with Backbone is to identify three game-changing questions that will open the door to influencers and decision-makers in the customer’s organization and bypass gatekeepers and procurement.
Step #3 – Find a devil’s advocate
- Ask them to help you think about your customer and how your current selling mental model may be holding you back. It’s helpful if the devil’s advocate works with your customer in another part of their organization, areas like R&D, engineering, or operations. See if your views are similar and be open to changing your negotiation tactics to test new hypotheses you develop together.
In summary, it’s “gut check time”. Are your confirmation bias blinders leading you to the wrong sales approach? If you do nothing else for the rest of the day, I’d encourage you to take a few minutes to think about your own biases and how they may impact your customers