Primacy vs Recency Debate

Covertly yet candidly, crazily yet cleverly, an American Presidential debate just took place. At the unseemly juncture of over four months before the vote. Earlier than any had ever been televised before.

In the light of all this, it was easy to let slip by one key Sales conundrum. One that we often hear take up a perhaps disproportionate amount of airtime in our world.

Who gets to go when?

Beforehand there was, as is now standard practice across all such truly democratic instances, a coin toss.

It appears the Incumbent side won the call. With tails.

They then could either choose where they'd be on-screen, or when to make their closing remarks.

They chose screen-right podium positioning.

Meaning the Challenger then got to reserve a closing argument slot, selecting to have the final summary statement.

This is fascinating.

Let's first understand their rationale.

The choice was matter-of-factly explained away as being the side that the speaker just happened to like, as personal preference.

Reasoning that's difficult to believe.

With no word as to why position outshone finishing.

This question arises for us normally when we're down to a last two. The final Board Presentation looms into view.

When do you prefer to pitch; before or after the competition?

In my earliest case of such choice, I was advised by the elders to go first.

They were very much of the view that it's better to set the agenda.

In that case, they were right.

But it was a vexed question that often took up significant discussion.

On one huge deal a short while after, we sought the thoughts of the independent 'consultant' brought in by the prospect. Truly revealing that they were leaning towards us, as we got given first dibs.

Which introduces the sub-plot.

On many occasions I've contributed to SKOs with a slot which is to help sum-up and make longer lasting the messages of the event. These involve a mini pop quiz of tidbits and themes from it. (Incidentally, it is remarkable how essential such an exercise is always revealed to be).

When a fresh or amended method of selling is being introduced, I've often asked the very question;

"when's it best to do a final presentation in a two-horse race?"

This is in part actually a trick question.

As the underlying answer is;

"when we get to decide".

And this shows what should be part at the very least of your sub-process. Looking at the mechanical elements of your bids. If you're in a realm where final two Board presentations take place, then you need to track this.

How often it happens. How to deal with it. And the results when you've chosen to go first, or have been dealt the second showing.

It might save you greatly in the long run if not given first pick anyway. As then why would you bother?

Waters can get muddied though. How long between first and second pitch? What's the time lag to any subsequent decision-making forum? Is there a third player involved?

Your stance on this depends on where you sit with what's known as The Primacy Effect, as set against The Recency Effect.

Most that think in such terms, will always choose to go first.

There is psychological study that backs this up as the route to go.

Whilst I am sceptical as to the veracity of such tests, and particularly their findings mapped onto solution selling/buying, it is indeed coincidental that they correspond to what I was taught, and have subsequently experienced.

You wonder if the Primacy of having first say wins out because you get to Set the Tone. Confidently saying to those up next, 'Follow That!'. You get to shape the agenda, mould the framework.

Often going second means the perceived Recency benefits - most obviously being 'who gives someone else the last word?' - are countered by someone else having something to live up to, and their pitch being seen in the context of yours, and not the other way 'round. They have to react to what's gone before, whether they realise it or not. They can be in that awkward 'After the Lord Mayor's Show' place. Similar to the feared Graveyard Slot.

Compounded by those advising, Never Attend Opening Night. Or the early bird beater of The Second Mouse Gets The Cheese. And those that feel it's simply better to frame rather than react.

Whichever way you lean - and my choice until the evidence changes is still to go first - the whole point is chiefly that you must get to decide, and you must track what happens to add to your process markers.

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