Mark Twain once quipped, “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.”


Assumptions are a well known hazard in life, even back in Mark Twain’s day, and hence they are a hazard in sales as well. As sales professionals, we need to be wary of, and do all we can to avoid some common and tempting sales assumptions.


The Assumption of Time. Ask a hundred people to use words to describe sales people, and “arrogant” will usually be towards the top of that list of words. The arrogance associated with the idea 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.


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 enough years to build a death star, even without Darth Vader getting people back on schedule. 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!


The Assumption of Perception. Even if the need for you 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 things all the time. Want proof? Turn around right now and look behind you at the room you are in for a solid two minutes. then come back and skip to the last paragraph below the dotted lines.


The Assumption of Priority. OK, so you’ve confirmed 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?


How do you avoid all these assumptions? How do you invert the paradigm and start qualifying your prospects in all four of these areas?


It’s called process. It just 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.



Did you look at the room behind you for 2 minutes? Great. now, without looking behind you, list off as many RED items/things in the room behind you. 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. OK, go back up and read the last assumption.