Moneyball Selling

Bias # 4 – Law of least effort – We are lazy and take the easy way out

Let’s face it, as human beings we are inherently lazy.  We look for the easy way out.  We refer to this as the law of least effort.   We’re wired to take the path of least resistance.  So, if there are a few ways to go about a task, it’s human nature to choose the one that will need the least effort, even though it may be the least effective. 

 Consider this question[1]:

“Steve is very shy and withdrawn, invariably helpful but with little interest in people or in the world of reality. A meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure and a passion for detail.” Is Steve more likely to be a librarian or a farmer?

Most people say Steve is a librarian.  But, the law of least effort is taking over here.  We jump to that conclusion because Steve fits the stereotype of a librarian.  But, few of us will do the work (because work is hard) of asking ourselves “Hey self, I wonder how many farmers and librarians there are?”  The fact is that there are ten times more farmers than librarians in the USA so it’s much more likely that Steve is a farmer.

Time for some introspection.  When was the last time you drew a conclusion based upon insufficient evidence?  Most of us do this daily.  Just as you probably thought Steve was a librarian you most likely took some mental shortcut and made a decision based upon stereotypes.

In selling, just because this deal looks eerily like one you recently closed and won, you must still do the work!  You still must ask the questions (and not listen with “happy ears”), make the presentations and present your arguments in a way specific to this prospect, and not just a rehash of the earlier stuff.  Thinking just because this one is just like the other one is a losing proposition.

Here’s a suggestion to make sure you limit the effects of the law of least effort: 

  1. Create a deal qualification template that forces you to answer the same questions about different qualified deals every time. What you might find after doing this a few times is that deals that initially look the same are different in a key and important way.  Unearthing these differences will help you sell smarter.  It can also be a competitive differentiator for you as you really uncover your prospect’s pain.
  2. Leverage the concept of stereotypes with your prospects. Use terms that are easily understood and convey meaning.  How easy would it be to understand my business if I told you “We are the Uber of lawn-mowing”?


(Next page, Availability Bias)

[1] From Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow (p. 7). Farrar, Straus and Giroux.