Bias # 5 – Availability Bias – We put too much focus on things we remember
As simple as it might seem, we can only access information in our brain. But our brain categorizes things and puts more weight on certain things. Availability bias weights things we can easily recall. People assess the probability of an event, such as winning a deal, by remembering relevant examples that are “available” in their memory. Just as it’s easy to raise money for hurricane relief right after a hurricane, it’s a trap to conclude that this deal is more likely to close because it is remarkably like the deal that closed last week.
For example, we hear the prospect wants to “move into the enterprise space”. We (think we) know what the prospect means by that because we had an earlier client make the same statement. In that case, the clients meant that they wanted to focus on selling to the Fortune 1000. Without asking this prospect what they mean by “enterprise” we jump into presenting our case. We look stupid because what this client meant was that they wanted to increase their average deal size.
Here are other traps of availability bias and some suggestions:
- You’ve had a series of meetings with various people. It’s human nature to focus on the things they said in the last meeting and to discount earlier conversations. For example, in an earlier meeting, they might have presented an objection and in the latest meeting they didn’t mention that it again. That doesn’t mean that it’s gone away. So, keeping a list of earlier conclusions and concepts and asking for clarification is useful.
- Over the course of a few weeks or months, you met with various people involved in the buying process. For example, let’s say a week ago you met with the technical people and this week you are meeting with the end users. Availability bias has us remembering and giving more weight to what the users said. It takes work to remember and give proper weight to what the technical people said. Being prepared with a list of questions that validate or repudiate what the technical people said will go a long way.
- Before any meeting, look at your notes from previous sessions with all buyer personas with whom you have interacted. This can remind you of lingering issues you should discuss before your prospect will truly move forward.
- Ask your prospect “What’s changed since the last time we talked?” Allow them to talk and either confirm that details reviewed previously are unchanged or that new issues or questions have emerged that you should discuss.
- Keep a running list of open questions you should ask during your sales cycle. Make sure you systematically check with your prospect that open items on the list are being addressed sufficiently. Once they agree, summarize in writing so both you and your prospect can remember.
(Next page, The Halo Effect Bias)