The human brain is a marvelous instrument. But, it has many built-in tendencies that can get in the way of making smart decisions and helping our organizations win. That’s why in today’s global markets, where everyone has access to the same information and technologies. Using your brain more effectively is a critical leadership skill. I am not talking about thinking harder. I am talking about understanding how your brain works, so it can start working for you rather than against you.
For example, the human brain:
- Doesn’t like uncertainty, which makes us quick to jump to conclusions
- Tends to see what it wants to see, making us prone to overlook obvious information that contradicts our view of the world
- Often distorts incoming information so it conforms with what we already “know to be true”
- Makes up stuff (usually wrong) in the absence of information
- Seeks solutions that have worked in the past rather than looking for new ideas
All of which can lead to undetected threats from competitors, missed opportunities, and poor decision-making from senior leadership. To give our organizations the best chance of winning, we need to understand how our brains work and then check in with them on a regular basis to prevent our built-in biases and assumptions from leading us astray.
Avoiding the Thought Bubble “Brain Trap”
These brain concepts also apply to the sales function. In fact, salespeople are just as likely to get snookered by their brains into making the same mistakes that leaders do. Likewise, the most successful salespeople are those who understand how their brains work (as well as the brains of their customers) and tailor their sales pitches and cycles accordingly.
For example, a common sales brain trap is believing our own thoughts bubbles – those automatic, underlying beliefs and assumptions we hold about our customers’ wants and needs. Common sales thought bubbles include:
- Everyone values the same things I do
- We have to sell on features and benefits
- This is as important to them as it is to me
- This is obvious; of course they see it
- They’re nodding, so they must agree
To avoid this brain trap, check in with your brain to update your thought bubbles on a regular basis. Are your assumptions about your customers still valid? If not, what has changed in their world? How does your business need to respond to stay relevant to their world?
Adapting to the Client’s Style
Another thought bubble that can derail the sales process is believing that everyone sees the world and makes decisions the same way you do. In this case, using your brain properly involves listening for and adapting to clues and cues about the way your customer processes information and makes decisions.
For example, are they a big picture, concept-oriented person, or do they go over every detail with a fine-tooth comb? Do they tend to make decisions quickly, or do they prefer a slow process to consider all possibilities? Are they more analytical or intuitive? Tools like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and the DISC (dominance, influence, steadiness and compliance) temperament tests can be very useful in understanding how to present to each customer in a manner that fits their style.
Get Clarity on Winning
Just as today’s leaders need to get clear on what winning looks like for their organizations, salespeople need to understand what winning means to their customers. What is their “finish line”? How do they define excellence? What will their organization look like when it crosses the finish line in first place? And what is winning for the individual making the decision to buy or not? How can you help set that person up to be successful as well?
Once you understand their vision of winning, use the process of “success visioning” to help them understand how your product or service will help them get there. This involves defining the desired future state and then asking future, active, past tense questions to prompt their brains to visualize what the goal looks like when it has been achieved. Ask the client, “When we have done an excellent job for you on this….”
- How did we communicate most effectively?
- How often and via what channels have we communicated?
- How did we work together to ensure that we fully understood the outcomes you needed to achieve?
- What did we do differently that other supplier/vendors were unable to do for you?
- How did we work together to resolve problems?
- How is your process/system/company better now that the goal has been achieved?
The human brain evolved to be efficient and conserve energy, and thought bubbles allow it to do just that. The problem is they don’t always serve us well. Practicing these techniques can help burst our ineffective bubbles and ensure that we stay connected with what our customers really want and need from us.
Call to action: Schedule a monthly meeting with your brain to check in and review your thought bubbles about your customers.