Moneyball Selling

Bias # 6 – The Halo Effect Bias – We let some things confer status on others

The halo bias/effect relates to how one thing confers status to another.  Think about celebrity endorsements where the fact that a star uses the product makes us think the product is something we should buy.  Because of this, we might confuse a prospect who meets us on time, dresses well, asks good questions and treats us with respect as having a high probability to buy from us.  That could be true, but it could also be true they are just very professional and treat all vendors that way.  On the other hand, take a prospect who is terse, distracted, late, asks only a few questions and leaves early.  Do not discount that person as someone with whom you should not engage in the buying cycle.  Perhaps they are the key buying influence and are just rushed.

Halo bias can be insidious.  For example, we meet a group and one person is warm and open.  We like them at once.  Halo has us giving that person’s thoughts more weight while discounting the rest.  This can be a real problem and something you must know.  Similarly, in an open discussion it’s natural to give more weight to people who are assertive and speak often.  Be careful not to dismiss the thoughts of the quieter people in the room.

Sequence matters here.  You see words, how you use them, and the order in which we present them are crucial to the way people understand them.  It’s important to recognize that we are all swayed by the way information is presented.  Consider these descriptions of two guys, Alan and Ben[1]:

  • Alan: intelligent—industrious—impulsive—critical—stubborn—envious
  • Ben: envious—stubborn—critical—impulsive—industrious—intelligent

Most people like Alan more than Ben.  The order in which the traits are presented changes our opinion.  Our brain is wired to think Alan is intelligent and industrious, and that Ben is envious and stubborn.  But both lists are the same, I’ve only reversed the order of the qualities.  Our mind infers the importance of things in terms of the order someone presents them because things that fall earlier on the list have a bigger impact on the brain.

So, as sellers, make sure that the order in which you present things is the order in which you want people to understand you.  Make your most persuasive and important points early.  If your first few points are highly relevant and persuasive, it is likely that your audience will accept the rest of your points.

We have these suggestions when dealing with optimism bias:

  1. On every bulleted list you make in a discussion, document, or presentation from now on, make sure the list is in the order you want them to remember things.
  2. Discuss the topics easy to understand and not contentious early in your meeting. Your goal is to get heads nodding in agreement early.  That way, the more difficult topics that follow are more easily understood.  If you want to talk about a difficult topic, discuss the more likable topics first.
  3. Create an organizational chart of all your key buying influences and ensure you have a plan to interact with each. Understand you may pay too much attention to some because of the “halo” associated with them all the while neglecting what could be essential buying influences


(Next page, Summing it all up)

[1] From Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.