How Confirmation Bias Undermines Sales

Published on May 15, 2018

As our society has become more polarized politically, many people have started talking about the term confirmation bias to explain what is going on. The term basically means the tendency to look for information that confirms our existing beliefs and to ignore the information that challenges our beliefs. Our confirmation bias leaves us stuck in our own viewpoint and unlikely to understand the viewpoint of another. It may not sound like it, but this has everything to do with sales.

Confirmation bias can lead you to miss what your customers need. This can especially be an issue with existing customers. You know them (or you think you do), and you think you know what they need. That belief can undermine your ability to listen and to sell. As a Sales and Leadership expert, I have even seen how it even undermines sales executives’ ability to ask the right questions. Ultimately confirmation bias prevents us from hearing what people are really telling us, and it, therefore, inhibits our understanding. 

There are three simple steps to deal with your own confirmation bias:

1. Acknowledge you have a confirmation bias. We all have beliefs and viewpoints. We use them to navigate our way through the world and make sense of things. Remind yourself that you tend to see things a certain way, but not everyone sees things the way you do—and that includes your customers!

2. Make understanding your goal. When going to a call or meeting, consciously put aside what you believe is important, and devote yourself to trying to understand where your customer is coming from, and what their real needs are.

3. Be flexible. Commit yourself to finding a way to meet your customer’s needs, even if that means you won’t sell them exactly what you expected to. Flexibility will allow you to build the relationship, which leads to more sales over time.

The ability to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and see from their vantage point is what makes the difference in building relationships and maintaining customers over the long haul. Confirmation bias is your sworn enemy in this venture; don’t assume it won’t get the best of you. Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open, and your customers will too.