Your trying to work out what you can do to improve sales. So, you conduct a sales-performance-audit. There’s a problem with this. And it’s similar to the warning issued by Mark Twain, (with apologies) “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client”.
There are a number of issues that inhibit you getting right down to the causes of your sales shortfalls. But we’ll focus on two problems. These come from the world of psychology and behavioural economics. If you’re unfamiliar with the second term, look up Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Khanerman.
Problem 1: Too much information
Problem 2: It is Complex!
Over the next couple of pages, we look at these issues – as pointed out, from the perspective of the psychologist. I have relied heavily on work from Buster Benson writing for an organisation called Better Humans. (https://betterhumans.coach.me/cognitive-bias-cheat-sheet-55a472476b18)
Let’s look at them.
Too much information – In Sales-Performance
The way we handle too much information is we filter a huge deal of it out. To do this our brain uses a few simple tricks to pick out the bits of information that are most likely going to be useful in some way.
It happened recently.
We notice things that are already in memory or repeated often. This is the simple rule that our brains are more likely to notice things that are related to stuff that’s recently been loaded in memory
We ignore the norm.
Bizarre/funny/visually-striking events and items stick out more than non-bizarre/unfunny items. Our brains tend to boost the importance of things that are unusual or surprising. Perhaps, more importantly, we tend to skip over information that we think is ordinary or expected. So, we accept practises that are the norm. They’re there every day so we take them for granted.
We notice changes
We notice when something has changed. And we’ll generally tend to weigh the significance of the new value by the direction the change happened (positive or negative) more than re-evaluating the new value as if it had been presented alone. So, we don’t focus on issues that have always been done a particular way.
We believe what we believe
We are drawn to details that confirm our own existing beliefs. This is a big one. As is the corollary: we tend to ignore details that contradicts our own beliefs.
We notice flaws in others more easily than flaws in ourselves. Yes, you do need to look at what you are doing because in auditing the sales team, you need to recognise that you are also subject to these biases.
Problem 2: Sales is Complex!
Selling is a complex social interaction.
Sales management can be very confusing. The tendency is for us to see only some of the issues. We take the reduced stream of information and we connect the dots, fill in the gaps with stuff we already think we know, and update our mental models of the sales world.
We work with incomplete data
We find stories and patterns even in small amounts of data. Since we only see a small amount of information, and we filter out almost everything else, we never have the luxury of having the full story. This is how our brain reconstructs the world to feel in control.
We rely on biases
We fill in characteristics from stereotypes, generalities, and prior histories whenever there are new specific instances or gaps in information. When we have partial information about a specific thing that belongs to a group of things we are pretty familiar with, our brain has no problem filling in the gaps with best guesses or what other trusted sources provide. Conveniently, we then forget which parts were real and which were filled in.
We like the familiar
We imagine things and people we’re familiar with or fond of as better than things and people we aren’t familiar with or fond of. Similar to the above but the filled-in bits generally also include built in assumptions about the quality and value of the thing we’re looking at.
We do some quick maths
We simplify probabilities and numbers to make them easier to think about. Our subconscious mind is terrible at math and generally gets all kinds of things wrong about the likelihood of something happening if any data is missing.
We think we know what others are thinking. In some cases, this means that we assume that they know what we know, in other cases we assume they’re thinking about us as much as we are thinking about ourselves. It’s basically just a case of us modelling their own mind after our own (or in some cases after a much less complicated mind than our own).
History is our guide
We project our current mindset and assumptions onto the past and future. Magnified also by the fact that we’re not very good at imagining how quickly or slowly things will happen or change over time
The way to achieve a true review is to engage consultants that can give you a fresh view. That’s not to say the consultant doesn’t have these biases. But the consultant is likely to have different ones.
We have developed a methodology for taking a fresh view of sales, fresh, customised and revealing. Give us a call.