As a well-known story of the Duke of Wellington recounts, once while standing on Piccadilly Square in London, a passerby looked at the Duke and asked if he was “Mr. Jones.” The crusty Duke replied, “If you presumed that, sir, you’d presume any damn thing.”
This story may strike a chord with many sales professionals. How many times have we wrongly presumed something about a customer, colleague, passerby, etc.? In selling, we are hyper-aware of the issues facing our customers because we hear about them daily. We read information on the internet that is consistent across the trade media and online gossip. We presume “everything is slow” because, well, “the economy is slow.” We presume that the competition has a particular prospect “locked.” We presume that a customer is satisfied with what we are doing.
Do these scenarios sound familiar? The minute the customer starts talking about their business or our competition, we presume that we know exactly where the conversation is going. We tune out, listen selectively to gain advantage and start formulating our reaction. Certainly a reaction is all we will have to offer. We cannot possibly offer a thoughtful response when our conclusions are based on the filter of our own presumptions instead of new insights or information provided by the customer.
As informed and engaged sales professionals, there is a natural tendency for us to make presumptions. After all, it is a means of anticipating the actions of customers and competitors so that we can stay ahead of events. But we must recognize the dangers of being too presumptuous. That mindset will limit opportunities. It can take us down the wrong path or keep us on a particular path too long. Too much presumption will lead us away from Preferred Position.
In today’s world it is best to not presume or assume at all. Open your mind to ALL that your customers have to say and to ALL the possibilities in your current and future customer relationships. You might be surprised to find where honest to goodness listening can lead you.
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