Why People Misunderstand Each Other (and what it means for sales)

One of the biggest issues in sales and the delivery of the subsequent project, is keeping everyone on the same page. The buyer thinks they have specified very clearly what they want. The seller thinks they understand the requirements. The seller also thinks they have clearly communicated how they will deliver the solution. Yet there are endless meetings and discussions during the sales cycles, and stressful moments during the project because people had different views of what’s supposed to happen.

This is a huge topic, worthy of entire books, but check out a recent article in the Atlantic, called Mixed Signals: Why People Misunderstand Each Other. One snippet from the article:

When Tim explained that he wasn’t at all angry—that he was just putting on his “active-listening face”—his colleague gently explained that his active-listening face looked a lot like his angry face.

A lot of these misunderstandings are due to the differences in the way we process information– quickly and reflexively, versus slowly and considered. The fast way is the way we operate most of the time, it’s easy, doesn’t require too much thought, and is often good enough. But sometimes, we need to think more carefully, to verify not just our view of the world, but that we have a shared view of the world with the other person (or, in many cases, people).

During the sales cycle, it’s especially easy to think we hear what we want to hear. To guard against this, verify what you are hearing. Don’t just have a checklist in your words, let the prospect use their words. And make sure you get outside your world, with your products and features, into your customer’s world, with their challenges, timelines, and needs.

(Oh, and, it doesn’t just apply in the business world.)


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