In earlier posts, I wrote that there are two approaches to presenting and evaluating evidence. The first is “to look for evidence along different dimensions and then draw dimension-specific conclusions based on this evidence”, and the second is “to highlight those pieces of evidence that support the product you’re trying to sell while overlooking or downplaying those pieces of evidence that could be barriers to the sale”.
The goal of the first approach is to accurately portray reality, while the goal of the second is to sell.
Every communication (written, over the phone, video, or in person) is composed of different degrees of both elements.
In order to communicate effectively, you need to know the degree to which to use each element.
And when filtering incoming communications, you need to know the degree to which the communicator’s goal is to portray reality versus to sell.
In an earlier post entitled “The nuance of reality”, I wrote that “Our tendency is to draw conclusions and then look for evidence to support those conclusions. Reality, however, is much more nuanced. Most good things have bad characteristics and most bad things have good characteristics.”
The underlying assumption of that post was that you’re operating in a context where your goal is to understand reality to the greatest extent possible. This calls for evaluating evidence to draw conclusions rather than drawing a conclusion and then looking for evidence to support it.
However, in a different context, the opposite approach is necessary. Specifically, when you’re selling something, your goal is to highlight those pieces of evidence that support the product you’re trying to sell while overlooking or downplaying those pieces of evidence that could be barriers to the sale.
In other words, selling is the practice of constructing reality by carefully selecting and presenting pieces of evidence which, while short of being comprehensive, hopefully remain individually accurate.
Before you start pitching to sell something, it’s useful to prepare. This means knowing the content of what you’re pitching and practicing the delivery to increase the probability that it evokes a positive response in the recipient.
However, no matter how much preparation you do in advance of the actual pitches, you will face unexpected questions when the pitches begin. Game time always creates surprises that you didn’t anticipate in practice.
The good news is that, after a few pitches (usually less than 5), you’ll have been hit with nearly all of the different questions that could be asked during your pitch. After this point, the same questions that surprised you in previous pitches will no longer surprise you in future ones.
While you may have felt ready by preparing well in advance of your first actual pitch, you’ll only be truly ready after giving a few actual pitches. As a result, you should schedule a few initial pitches where the stakes are low (in other words, being turned down isn’t that important) so that you’re truly ready when the stakes are high.
There are many reasons why someone might not buy what you’re selling.
They might not have the resources to buy it, they might have the resources but not have put in the time necessary to understand what you’re selling, they might have put in the time but still not understand it, they might understand it but arrive at a different conclusion about its value, or it might be another of the large group of buyer-related reasons. Finally, the reason for not buying might also be you, the seller.
As these examples show, there are many more buyer-related reasons for someone to not buy something than the single seller-related reason. Yet, despite this mismatch, we disproportionately turn to ourselves when someone doesn’t buy what we’re selling. The reason for this is that we default to viewing our lives as being the result of our own actions and need to make a conscious effort to realize that much of what happens is actually the result of the actions of others.
In other words, there’s a mismatch between the actual probability that the buyer isn’t buying because of you versus your perception of this probability.
Recognizing this mismatch helps you keep selling with confidence.