Avoiding Assumptions


‘Ass/u/me’ was a placard that sat on one of my sales manager’s credenza. I was young and had never heard this truism before.  He explained to me how we shouldn’t assume anything when it comes to prospects.  Since that time, I have come to realize this is sage advice for any part of your professional and personal life.  Here are some of the areas I’ve learned where to apply this that I assume you might find helpful!

Don’t Assume in Selling

The lesson my sales manager conveyed was that we shouldn’t make assumptions regarding who will and who won’t buy our products or services. So many times as sales people, we make snap judgements on the viability of a prospect based on outward conditions such as their appearance, their previous investments, their similarities to a previous prospect, etc.  The problem with this is that it leads us to overlook some good prospects and – worse yet – to hold on to prospects who will never buy.

This is not saying ignore the circumstances, your experience or your intuition.  All of these factors help you do a better job in qualifying and closing your prospect.  As an example, if you’re offering an expensive item and your prospect’s desk is a card table, you might assume there is a challenge with funding.  That may be the truth or it may not.  You won’t really know until you ask.  It may turn out he’s borrowing the office or his furniture is on back order.

Another scenario where assumptions cause you to lose sales is when you're dealing with someone who really wants to buy but needs you to sell them. Strange as it seems, it has been my experience that there are a large portion of prospects who really want and need your product but also need you to give them a reason to buy.  They spend a good amount of time at the beginning telling you why they can’t afford it or shouldn’t do it.  Many times sales people become sympathetic to what they’re hearing instead of being empathetic.  They end up closing their books and walking away from someone who could end up a good client.

Whatever the reason, you don’t want to dismiss the possibility of the sale because you’ve made the wrong assumption. The truth is, people find a way to buy what they really want to buy.  It’s important that the sales person properly qualifies the prospect and presents the value in their solution.  Bottom line: it’s our job to give them the opportunity to say “yes.”

Don’t Assume When Dealing With People

Since that day in my manager’s office, my experience base has grown. As soon as I went into business for myself, I learned that Ass/u/me applied to more than just selling.  Unfortunately, at times, these lessons cost me some real money.

As an entrepreneur, especially a ‘solopreneur,’ you wear many, if not all, the hats. You’re the executive, the office manager, the purchasing agent, the accounting department and even the janitor.  With so much to do, we sometimes find ourselves in a hurry and not communicating as effectively as we should.  We make assumptions that people understand what we are talking about.

In my first business, I too often found myself assuming that my vendors and I were on the same page and sometimes I was wrong. These incorrect assumptions ended up with the wrong item being order or a missed delivery date.  Mistakes like this can – and did – end up with a lost sale or even worse, a lost client.

To avoid costly mistakes, make sure your message or request is understood correctly. When it comes to contracts or commitments (especially verbal and financial ones), my suggestion is to make sure you have it clearly in writing.  When you get a verbal commitment, make sure you confirm it with an email, contract or a letter.

When dealing with employees, make sure they’re clear on their job functions, responsibilities and employment agreements. Always have it in writing.  You may need this if there is ever an uncomfortable parting of ways.

Don’t Assume When Dealing With The Voices In Your Head – Yours and Other People's

Other Voices - When you step into the Entrepreneurship Arena, you open yourself up to having to make many decisions all the time.  Sometimes these decisions are easy and sometimes they are not.  When they are not, many of us seek ‘wise counsel’ and start asking others for their input and advice.

Depending on the relationship we have with the person or their experience level, we may take action based on their input. There is nothing wrong with this as long as you have enough supporting information to know that their advice is right for you. It’s wrong when we blindly act on their advice because we assume they know better than we do. Only you know your situation intimately and you are the one that has to live with your decisions. We are not to assume that ever piece of advice we receive is perfect.

The Voices in Your Head – This same advice also goes for the voices you’re hearing in your own head. As our subconscious rules our thought processes, sometimes it feeds us misinformation. The problem comes when we assume these thoughts are correct.

The subconscious forms thoughts based on the programming. The programming is based on past experiences. Sometimes the programming works for the current situation and sometimes it doesn’t. An example might be that you’re considering taking on a partner. Your past experience with partnerships was not a good one. As soon as you start entertaining these thoughts the voice of your subconscious, in its effort to protect you, throws up cautionary warnings such as, “Don’t do it. Remember the last time? Don’t make that mistake again.”

Sometimes it’s right and sometimes it’s wrong. The disappointing part comes when we assume the thoughts from our subconscious are right and we stop taking the steps that will move us forward in our growth or reaching our goal.

Let’s be honest. We make assumptions all time. We have to. If we had to take the time to tear apart every little decision we made, we’d never get anything done. The important lesson is to know when not to assume. When to ask more questions, get more information or follow our intuition. Doing this properly comes with experience. After you make a few costly assumptive mistakes, the more attuned you become to avoiding that mistake again. Or at least I would assume so!

Linda Minnick

Linda Minnick is a specialist in transformational thinking. She is a coach, PSYCH-K® facilitator, author and speaker. Recognizing that a major part of success is in your head, Linda helps her clients get very clear on what it is they really want to create and provides them with support and tools to change the beliefs that are stopping them from getting there.

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