Learning Nugget 16 - Overcoming Bias
“If you want to bring a fundamental change in people's belief and behavior...you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured.” - Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
In Learning Nugget 15 we explored our own bias, the underlying cognitions that drive our decision making, judgement and actions.
"We think, each of us, that we're much more rational than we are. And we think that we make our decisions because we have good reasons to make them. Even when it's the other way around. We believe in the reasons, because we've already made the decision." - Daniel Kahneman
Prospects and clients are likewise bound by these biased dispositions. Successful people, successful sales people, have learned to emancipate themselves from these. Importantly, in many cases, they don’t lose the bias, it’s merely the ability to be aware of them, identify and recognise them and change actions and decisions as a result.
“We learn by example and by direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
In this Learning Nugget we said we’d share some techniques on how to differentiate by being more capable of understanding bias and changing actions.
There are many many books, white papers, academic articles on this subject. Thousands in fact, so lets explore just two simple techniques that will seem amazingly obvious, and that you can implement easily right now in every single client discussion you have.
Reframing and Active Listening.
Reframing is not new in sales. Nearly every major sales methodology uses it. Mostly for objection handling. Methods such as The Challenger Sale and Insight Selling have elements of their models around reframing. However in most cases the reframe is focussed on persuading a customer who is saying no to say yes on the offer. They use this subtle technique not to help a customer achieve a better business outcome, but rather to increase their comfort with making the technology investment. There are some valuable reframing techniques in those methods, so don’t discount them, just realise they are still product focussed.
Simply, Reframing involves changing a perspective on a given situation to give it a more positive or beneficial meaning. It’s more than just the logic. It’s first and foremost about “feeling” differently.
Let’s say you work for the Centers for Disease Control and there is an outbreak of a deadly disease called “The Mojave Flu” in a town of 600 people. All 600 people in the town are expected to die if you do nothing. Let’s say you have come up with two different programs designed to fight to the disease:
With Program 1: 200 people in the town will be saved
With Program 2: There is a 1/3rd probability that 600 people will be saved, and a 2/3rds probability that no people will be saved.
In the study, 72 percent of the subjects picked Program 1. Now consider the same scenario worded differently:
With Program 3: 400 people in the town will die
With Program 4: There is a 1/3rd probability that nobody will die, and a 2/3rds probability that 600 people will die.
Now which do you pick? In the study, 78 percent of the subjects picked Program 4, even though the net result of the second set of choices is exactly the same as the first set (Programs 1 and 3 mean the same thing, and Programs 2 and 4 mean the same thing).
So what can you do in your professional selling ? Ask better questions!
Why and how questions that;
Help a customer see and consider what they cannot see or consider for themselves
Help them to understand both the risk of action and the risk of non action
Help a customer deeply think about success barriers in ways they’ve not thought about them before
Help them develop a view of a safe, familiar and authentic path to meaningful impacts on outcomes
Here are 2 excellent articles that discuss reframing in detail (about a 5-7 min read).
Admit it, we say we are listening but we almost always are not. We hear trigger words and we mentally prepare our next comment, our next pitch, our next statement, we often interject and don’t consider what the other party has said.
Active listening is in fact very very simple, we just don’t do it.
Google active listening and you will find tons of guides and tips, but all effectively outline some common behavioural techniques we must deploy to be good active listeners. They include;
For further reading here are two very good, short articles on the topic.
"True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes." - Daniel Kahneman
You won’t become skilled at reframing and/or active listening techniques merely from reading, from verbal instruction or watching vides. Only through challenging your thoughts, getting constructive feedback and coaching and an ability as peers to set goals to be different and learn together will genuine change in behaviour be achieved.
“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
It may seem simple. Ask good questions and listen, really listen. But knowledge does not equal understanding (go back and watch the backwards bike video in Learning Nugget 1). Every discussion is different, situationally, contextually and emotionally and thus scripted generic questions don’t work. A powerful impactful question used for one client may have no impact for another. The art is learning to listen, think, reframe. It’s the ability to develop our ability to quickly understand, understand the biases at play, on both sides of the conversation and alter the paradigm as a result.
"Mental effort, I would argue, is relatively rare. Most of the time we coast." - Daniel Kahneman
Thus your personal challenge is this. No one can direct you, mandate you or tell you to become an active listener to reframe in conversations. The evolution of these skills starts with your deeply personal passionate desire to genuinely help your customers achieve better business outcomes from their technology investments and the understanding that traditional / conventional conversations are hurting not helping that outcome.