Salespeople make a history of assuming things. Here’s an example made famous by yours truly. Years ago when I was selling medical devices I had a variety of hospitals that I called on. There were the mega 1000 bed hospitals and the community hospitals with maybe a 150 beds where not much heavy duty surgery was being done. Typically I spent my time in the larger hospitals for obvious reasons-more potential dollars.
On my travels I always passed this small community hospital that I “assumed” was not doing any major procedures. Wrong! During one of my trips through that area I had some extra time so I decided to stop in and poke around. What I found was a surgical department with several aggressive physicians doing some heart procedures that you normally saw only in larger institutions. The whipped cream on this pie was that I knew one of the surgeons who had moved out of a larger metro area in order to practice medicine in a less hectic environment. This “not worth stopping in hospital” turned out to be a $30K per year account. Very much “worth” the time to stop by.
Another story worth reading is told by Sean McPheat. Although the industries and buyers are different the adage still rings true-assumption is the mother of many, many sales screw ups. History is rife with other examples. Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford met with the president of Harvard many years ago. They wanted to erect a memorial to their deceased son who had attended Harvard for a year. The Harvard president looked at these two people with disdain because they were poorly dressed and certainly not “Harvard” material. Mr. Leland Stanford and his wife left and started Stanford University in Palo Alto California! Looks like the Harvard prez might have drawn some poor conclusions don’t you think? (Malcolm Forbes told this story years ago.)
It’s hard to say why we are victims of making wrong assumptions. My bet is that some of the reasons are:
- We were raised with certain beliefs
- Our egos manufacture reasons behind certain truths
- We don’t want to be embarrassed by our actions
- We don’t want to appear stupid
Sales is a profession that has no room for assumptions. Accept what you hear and see and sense with an open mind. The truth you experience beyond the assumption may surprise you and if it doesn’t what have you lost? Nothing but knowledge gained.