“It Ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” — Mark Twain

Mark Twain had a lot of great quotes, but that one is my all time favorite.

Assumptions are an extreme hazard in life, even back in Mark Twain’s day. Life is sales, and sales is life, hence assumptions can cause some serious problems in sales as well. There are a few key assumptions to avoid in sales. They are the main killers of trust.

The Assumption of Time. Ask a hundred people to use words to describe sales people. “Pushy” and “arrogant” will usually be towards the top of that list of words. That arrogance comes from sales behavior that assumes that because we called you, you have the time to hear us out. No matter how much money or time you can save me, I may not be in a place to be able to hear you if there is something urgent and/or important going on in my world at that moment. As a sales professional, you have nothing until you have time. It is arrogant to assume that someone answering the phone has the time for a sales pitch. It is foolish to attempt to talk to someone who is not or can not listen. Before anything else, you need to verify and qualify the prospect’s time.

The Assumption of Need. This is the number one time waster in the sales world. If I add up all the time an average sales professional spends presenting a solution to a client that does not have the need for that solution, I have a lifetime of years. Again, no matter how good your product or service is and how much it may appear that I need it, you cannot assume that need! Professionals ask a lot of questions, and follow up questions to make sure we identify and qualify needs.

The Assumption of Perception. Even if the need for your product or service is clearly there, it does not mean that your prospect perceives it. So much information is hitting our brains second by second, that we all tend to delete or triage out a lot of information. It is called deletion, and it makes us miss many things all the time. Want proof? Turn around right now and look behind you at the room you are in for a full minute,  then come back and scroll down.

Did you look at the room behind you for a minute? Great, now without looking behind you, list off as many RED items/things you can remember. Once you’ve done that, turn back around and look for things that are red. You are likely finding a lot of things that you didn’t see the first time, right? Actually, you did see them the first time, but you didn’t really perceive them, because your brain deleted them as insignificant. Once your brain had a mission to find red things, it deleted other items and focused on finding the red ones. That’s deletion. 

The Assumption of Priority. OK, so you’ve confirmed the need, and made sure the prospect perceives it. All good now right? Everyone buys if you do that? Not quite. The existence of a problem to solve (a sales opportunity) does not mean that the problem is high enough on the priority list to be addressed by the prospect. I may need better life insurance, and know that I need it, but if my car is broken, my roof is leaking and I just broke my leg, life insurance isn’t something I am going to buy right now. Most of us are able to work on 1-3 priorities at once. Highly functional human beings with a staff and a lot of resources can maybe work on 5 at once. Is the problem solved by your product/service in your prospect’s top 5? Top 3? How do you know? You need to ask and find out.

A well designed sales process means you don’t “wing it” on sales calls, but use a systematic methodology to avoid the assumptions that diminish trust with your clients. The more process oriented you are, the more of a professional you are at what you do, in sales or in any other profession. There are psychologically based, scientific approaches that factor in avoiding these assumptions, and they are rocket fuel to sales success.