This information was recently shared by The Hustle, one of my favorite business newsletters, in a segment called “How Much Don’t People Read?” Two related examples further illustrate how irresponsible people can be when it comes to accuracy and thoroughness (or just not reading what the post):
The aforementioned Columbia University study was inspired by a satire site, known as The Science Post, which once published the following headline on social media: “Study: 70% of Facebook Users Only Read the Headline of Science Stories Before Commenting.” Interestingly, the accompanying article only had placeholder text, the gibberish used to fill space temporarily. Nevertheless, the post still got 46,000 shares.
In 2019, Annie Reneau wrote a story about domestic terrorism for Upworthy (a website dedicated to positive storytelling), but a glitch sent the Facebook post to a dead link. It racked up thousands of shares and more than 2,000 comments from people who had not (because they could not) read the article.
There are so many lessons sales professionals can take from the preceding instances. Among them are: 1. Don’t put too much faith in your targeted persons’ ability and willingness to digest what you’re communicating; 2. Make sure you communicate ideas as robustly as you can in the shortest amount of time/space; 3. Don’t forward anything unless you’re sure what it’s all about (and not comprised of gibberish-like placeholder text).
But the main reason I share this information is to illustrate the dangers of making assumptions. In fact, I consider the “sin of assumption” to be the deadliest sin in the sales profession.
One of the ways we commonly commit the sin of assumption is to assume what clients or prospective clients want, to assume what they value. If you are excited about the offering you sell, it’s easy to let your enthusiasm get between you and what truly motivates your client.
As sales professionals, our job is to discover the value that lives inside each prospect’s head. We have no right to determine what another person values. Instead, we pull it out of their heads and then customize our selling techniques specifically toward that value.
Each person defines what is valuable to him or her. Nobody else can do that. Not a family member, not a spouse, not a colleague and certainly not a sales rep. Our job is to figure out exactly what the prospect values without making an assumption. When we know that, then and only then do we start making a pitch.
The longer you’ve been in your profession, the more vulnerable you are to committing the sin of assumption. In most ways, having a long tenure in your industry is an advantage, but when it comes to figuring out what a prospect values without making assumption, it can be a disadvantage.
Think about it. The longer you’ve been selling, the more experiences you have had, and the more every new client reminds you of someone in the past. Furthermore, the deeper your knowledge of the industry becomes, the less you have in common with clients, especially those who are not terribly sophisticated in your field.
Do what it takes to figure out what your prospect truly values and don’t assume. Those sales pros to make assumptions are no better than a bunch of social media gadflies who hurriedly share fallacious posts.