Wrong Assumptions, Right Destination, Wrong Track!

False assumptions can hold you back

“Back when I was still working as a physicist, people were always coming up to me with problems that they weren’t able to solve and asking me to check their math. After a while I started to realize that I was just wasting my time. The thing was, the math was almost always correct. That’s when I started checking their assumptions instead, which I quickly saw they were always wrong!” (The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox).

In my position as a consultant, I run into this problem all too often. This is exactly why I spend so much time working with my customers to find out what they are thinking: What assumptions are you making when you start to develop your sales story? Why are you making these assumptions? Because you’ve seen other people doing the same thing? That’s not really a very good reason, is it?

In my experience, you’ve got to know what you want to accomplish. Once you know this, you need to figure out your method for achieving this. Once you’ve made it there, you can start developing a story so intoxicatingly attractive that no one will ever turn you down. At this point your sales potential becomes endless.

I once had a client who said her dream was to attend conferences and lock down sales right there on the conference floor. She had it all envisioned down to her snazzy little setup of a laptop, mobile printer, and one of those pads the UPS guy carries around to collect your signature. Armed with these handy little transportable tools, she was going to lure in customers, find out what they needed, put it all together on her laptop, get them to sign on the dotted (or virtual) line, and print it all out for them. It was all so perfect…

…But then I started asking her questions.

“Where’d you get the inspiration for this idea?” I asked her curiously.

“My insurance agent had a similar setup last time I met him.”

“And did you sign the new contract?”

“Um. No.”

No. No sale for Mr Insurance Agent. Well, at least not the thing he wanted to sell…

Although he may not have gotten her to sign the contract, he had done an excellent job of selling her the technology he was using. So much so, in fact, that she now wanted to run out and buy the exact same stuff. Well done! At least if you’re selling UPS signature-collection pads!

Assume nothing. Ask instead.

So I asked her, “Do you want to sell this technology or do you want to sell ads?”

For a moment, she just stared at me blankly, but then I saw the recognition spread across her face. From there, we were able to start developing a concept that would help her actually sell her product instead of the products she was using, but that is another story for another day. Be sure to stay tuned and check back in to find out what exactly we did to help her sell ads.

Before we go, I’ll leave you, once again, with our key takeaways from this post: Always be sure to analyze exactly what it is you want. Once you are absolutely 100% sure of this point, start to look at your assumptions. Remember that your ideas may be fun, or catchy, or neat, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to get you to your goal. Think of the physicist: “That’s when I started checking their assumptions instead, which I quickly saw they were always wrong!”

(The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt und Jeff Cox)

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