I was driving to the airport the other day on a busy stretch of the highway when overhead appeared a red-tail hawk that ultimately perched on a light pole. It made me realize how much more frequently I now see hawks in our area. Over the last few years, the population seems to have ballooned. Prior to maybe seven or eight years ago, I don’t recall ever seeing hawks in or around the city. I live in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio — which is a fairly populated place — so it isn’t like I live out in the country or anything.

I imagined that the population growth had somehow robbed hawks of their natural habitat. I felt sorry for the hawks because we had infringed on their territory. Then I quickly realized that I was doing exactly what so many salespeople and sales managers do. I was projecting my understanding of the situation onto the hawks. I assumed that the hawks would like it better if there were not people around.

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Salespeople engage in this same unhealthy and unsuccessful behavior by assuming they know what is going on with their prospects and customers. Rather than asking them thought-provoking questions they just think they know everything. In doing so, they miss out on true understanding — or worse, offend the prospect by not really engaging or listening.

Sales managers have a tendency to assume as well. They either assume their salespeople are doing what they should be doing, without much oversight, or they assume that they understand why salespeople act certain ways or fail to behave in others, without asking. Both are detrimental to successfully gaining full understanding and inhibit a person’s ability to appropriately address the situation, either to close business as a salesperson or to help a salesperson ascend to new heights as their sales manager.

The simplest way to fix the problem is to become more inquisitive. Ask a robust number of questions that start with “why” and “how.” Also, cut back on use of the phrase, “I think….” when describing your understanding of any situation. If you think it but don’t know it based on the feedback to questions you’ve asked, then you might be missing key information.

Applying this same principle to the hawk example, it is possible that the hawks just like being around people… or maybe the increased number of people attracts certain rodents or small birds which make it easier for the hawks to hunt. I don’t know the answer, but I sure would like to ask them the questions to find out.

Quit projecting your thoughts and understanding on others and ask more thought-provoking questions — soon you’ll see the improvement in your results.

Read more about assumptions of prospects’ needs in these posts:


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What’s the most interesting or random thing you’ve drawn sales wisdom from? Let us know in the comments.