Freakonomics for Sales

Heard about the “freakonomics” phenomenon?  It’s all about the book written by a self-styled rogue economist, Steven Levitt, who feels that the discipline should be used to explain how the world really works, but lamentably seldom is.  And pretty impressive a read it is too.

He poses 5 random questions about life, and during explanation runs through insights that leave you aghast with inspiration.  His daytime-TV-type headline grabber revolves around ‘where have all the criminals gone?’ with the answer being that legalised abortion prevented them existing.  The data and methodology used to compile his thoughts makes for compelling hypotheses.  As with many of these books penned by Americans, it is far too insular, and the total absence of scenarios and evidence from any other country can prove a barrier, but by persevering, I realised there are 5 awesome tips on how to win more sales.  Here they are (with page numbers added for reference from the UK Penguin Culture paperback printed 2006):

Information Asymmetry (p68)

This occurs anywhere an expert uses their superior knowledge for their personal benefit, rather than the pooled gain of both buyer and vendor.  The jugular he goes for belongs to estate agents, a popular choice I’m sure.  The lesson for salespeople on this one, is simply remembering to expose where a rival sales person, or seemingly trusted 3rd-party advisor, may have incorrectly said something to sway credence away from your solution.  Uncovering Information Asymmetry successfully, would provide you more sales.

What determines a Job’s pay? (p105)

Interesting if you are wondering how much you are worth, or how much a new position you want filling should merit.  A job’s rate of pay is determined by 4 factors:

  1. Number of people willing/able to do the job
  2. Specialised skills required
  3. Unpleasantness of job
  4. Demand for services job fulfils

Cause or Correlation? (p139, 161)

Understanding the difference between these two can throw several bones your way.  When it rains it is cold.  Yet is does not rain because it is cold.  Just because two things tend to happen in sync, does not mean they make each other happen.  It struck me this is a great questioning technique to have when uncovering needs.  What typically happens when… what causes that…. And so on.

Conventional Wisdom (pp89-92)

There is a huge tirade against Conventional Wisdom.  I immediately bought into this, as I remember when I first got into sales I read a lot around the subject, and Harvey Mackay’s ‘if it ain’t broke – fix it’ was an enjoyable anti-convention romp I fondly recall.  The point for sales people, often you have to challenge the ‘conventional wisdom’ to progress your sale. He uses arguments you can use too, like the inventor of the phrase, economist JK Galbraith doing so to expose its flaws, and the Iraq war being founded upon such misplaced principles.

Incentives (p20)

He believes economics is the study of incentives; how people get what they want/need, especially when others want the same thing.  This is worthwhile as it focuses on what incentivises someone to truly make a decision in our favour, something often neglected in the rush to prove feature-worthiness.

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