Malcolm Gladwell - Blink

A main conclusion of this book should spark any solution seller into action: First impressions (and its sibling “rapid cognition”) are so powerful and so open to subconscious prejudice, that you must do all you can to control them in your favour.

Apparently many of us are expert in a particular thing. And when confronted with something in that arena, we instantly know the right judgement about it. This ‘thin-slicing’ means that as an expert, you can take only the slightest morsel of information, or a slim snapshot in time when exposed to it, and make an absolute decision, with clarity and correctness.

The book is terrific at taking you through the funnels, visors, constraints and freedoms that you must deploy in order to make the most of this stunning innate ability. Many can be readily adapted for the solution sale environment.

Thin-Slice Success

The first insight I’d say I gleaned, is to thin-slice your own deal success. What little things happen every single time you win a deal? They might occur in the blink of an eye, or they may be seemingly trivial (re)actions, steps or conversations, but each time they take place, you win. Once identified, what can you do to get them cropping up more often on every campaign?

Spot Emotional Override

From a psychological viewpoint, I found myself knowingly nod along to descriptions of positive or negative sentiment override. It cropped up in relation to whether married couples would survive (the answer always being no if Contempt surfaced) and can be felt whenever either +ve or -ve emotion overrides irritability. If you sense the latter, you’re losing the deal.

First Word Game

A new game I invented reading this, was to ask prospects for the very first word that enters their head when you mention … [choose a relevant topic of your choice]. Experts think differently, and as every buyer will think they’re an expert in their field, this test will uncover their true thoughts – and note that if they delay in any way, then perhaps they’re not on your side.

Never Pre-judge

One salesman was referenced, a car rep called Bob Golomob. A pair of atypical traits made him top achiever in his field. He’d always call visitors up the next day, and he never let initial impressions alter his approach. The latter proved critical. Scruffy students would bring their rich parent the next day to pay, as would confused wives their husbands and vice versa.

Crucial Decision Criteria

Learn the lessons of heart attack diagnosis taken from America’s Cook County Chicago hospital. Faced with iffy results and rising costs, they eventually focused on just 4 key criteria that provided diagnosis more accurate than deploying the dozens of criteria together that doctors heuristically used. What are the handful of key points that’ll determine your project success and put all others into the shade?

Exposing Prejudice

Before candidates were shielded from view, conductors never took on female musicians. With screens, they flourished. Where could in-built (yet hidden, subconscious) prejudice hinder your proposal, and what can you do to expose it?

And here’s a few one-liners

  • according to topic guru Gary Klein, the key to decision making under pressure is simply to act. (ie make that decision and make it now)
  • often a sign of expertise is noticing what isn’t there, or doesn’t happen
  • for snap purchase decisions, limit the choice (the jam story was classic – only 3% of shoppers shopping at a display with 24 types of jam bought, whereas a whopping 30% stopped when the same space featured just 6 labels)
  • margarine didn’t sell until changing its colour from white to yellow
  • it’s the new and different products that a re always the most vulnerable to market research (in which cases it can’t be trusted)
  • I loved how a ‘triangle test’ can fudge and confuse people’s expectations and answers (wiktionary definition: A test in which a potential consumer is asked to determine blindly which of three similar items is not identical to the other two.)
  • Avoid ‘mind-blindness’ – the inability to make a correct decision – by making sure your heartbeat is not raised (no ‘arousal’) and that you have plenty of time

And finally, possibly my favourite passage is a brilliant lesson for any sales manager in how best to work with the people reporting for you. (It happens to be the musing of a war veteran who went on to become a hugely successful maverick commander):

On Paul Van Riper’s first tour in South East Asia, when he was out in the bush, serving as an advisor for the South Vietnamese, he would often hear gunfire in the distance.

He was then a young lieutenant new to combat, and his first thought was always to get on the radio and ask the troops in the field what was happening.

After several weeks of this, however, he realised that the people he was calling on the radio had no more idea than he did about what the gunfire meant.

It was just gunfire.

It was the beginning of something – but what that something was was not yet clear.

So Van Riper stopped asking.

On his second tour of Vietnam, whenever he heard gunfire, he would wait.

“I would look at my watch,” Van Riper says, “and the reason I looked was that I wasn’t going to do a thing for five minutes.

If they needed help, they were going to holler.

And after five minutes, if things had settled down, I still wouldn’t do anything.

You’ve got to let people work out the situation and work out what’s happening.

The danger in calling is that they’ll tell you anything to get you off their backs, and if you act on that and take it at face value, you could make a mistake.

Plus you are diverting them.

Now they are looking upward instead of downward.

You’re preventing them from resolving the situation.”

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