The First Thing You Hear

Over two thousand nine hundred years ago, a man ruled a kingdom in the Middle East. His name was Solomon, and he reigned over the Nation of Israel from 970 to 931 BCE. During that time, this wise King penned many insightful words, including the following: “The first to state his case seems right until the other party comes and cross-examines him.” Isn’t that an interesting observation? You know how it goes. When the first party tells their side of a story and makes a compelling account of what happened, they are usually believed. That is the case, even when what they have said could be false and one-sided. Yes, King Solomon was the first to record this fundamental aspect of how individuals are biased when they initially receive information from others.

Centuries later, modern psychologists confirmed his theory, and this aspect of human behavior today is known as “anchoring bias.” But what is it? A research group called The Decision Lab wrote this about it:

“Anchoring bias is a cognitive bias that causes us to rely too heavily on the first piece of information we are given about a topic. When we are setting plans or making estimates about something, we interpret newer information from the reference point of our anchor instead of seeing it objectively. This can skew our judgment and prevent us from updating our plans or predictions as much as we should. When we become anchored to a specific figure or plan of action, we end up filtering all new information through the framework we initially drew up in our heads, distorting our perception. This makes us reluctant to make significant changes to our plans, even if the situation calls for it. Anchoring bias is one of the most robust effects in psychology.”

Yes, just like Solomon pointed out, in a court of law, the first party to make their case sets the “anchor” or storyline for the hearers and has a distinct advantage of persuading a jury to see things their way. The question is, what does any of this have to do with selling new customers? Everything. As you read on, you will learn how you can benefit from this inherent bias when delivering sales presentations, and when you are up against a tough competitor, you will learn how to obtain the most sales.

In recent years, experts in marketing have said that anchoring bias is essential for sellers to understand when providing a prospect with an initial price, such as through printed advertisements. Advertising a price creates a baseline of negotiations. It makes it difficult for the seller to raise the price later in their discussions with prospects because the initially advertised price sticks in their mind. With this in mind, we will now explore a different and even more critical aspect of how you can use anchoring bias to your advantage.

There are instances during your interactions with prospects that you can use your knowledge of the anchoring bias concept, such as when a prospect initially contacts you. At that time, if you discover that you are the first salesperson that the prospect has spoken to, this is your opportunity to message them and help them establish their baseline beliefs that they will use to make a final decision. Because as you know, most prospects will typically talk to more than one seller in their investigation to purchase a product or service. In fact, in many cases, they will speak to your direct competitors. But the question is, what messages will help them form the correct baseline beliefs that will advantage you? These are messages that you create and deliver, using a foundational reasoning strategy to set an anchoring belief.

Messaging a prospect begins typically when you initially talk over the phone or during a brief face-to-face meeting. This initial point of contact is extremely critical in the sales process, and how to handle it cannot be understated. Why? Because this is when you will attempt to create the anchoring beliefs of the prospect. How? By being the first to deliver the core messages about your product or service. These messages they will carry forward in their investigation and final decision-making.

So, now let us take a few minutes and examine core messages in a little more detail. In my book R3R1: The Sales Formula for Success, and my online training course “The Science of Selling Academy,” I explain how to make specific reasoning statements in the form of messages in both a short form – as a speed message – and later in an expanded reasoning presentation. Again, as you are delivering your foundational reasoning messages, you have an opportunity to establish many baseline beliefs within your prospect’s mind as it relates to the purchase of your product or service. That, of course, pre-supposes that you both know how to deliver and follow the foundational reasoning messaging process.

Here is an example of how to do it: During the differentiation section of your reasoning presentation, either when you are giving a speed message or performing an extended reasoning presentation, explain why your company created your product or service differently. Further, explain why those attributes are essential to the end-user of the specific product or service. Then you will explain how these differences will impact the chances of having the best experience possible using the product or services. Next, when you align interest with a prospect, you will have an opportunity to help them form their beliefs in a unique way. Why? Because you can assist the prospect in setting goals that they want to achieve by buying the product or service. The prospect will then use this knowledge to weigh your product or service against competitors’ proposals and the promises your competitor will have to deliver to compete with your offering.

Lastly, when you demonstrate through real examples that your customers have outstanding experiences using your product or service, you can establish an anchored belief that the prospect will use to make comparisons against any other product or service. Suppose the salesperson of the company you are competing against is a novice, and in many cases, they will be. In that case, they will not know how to compete with the kind of persuasiveness you are employing, so you will win the customer over and complete the sale in most cases.

I recently wrote an article, “Triggering Action,” where I outline that heuristics and optimism bias are two critical motivating aspects of human behavior behind the foundation of reasoning’s effectiveness. Anchoring bias is another crucial element in the success of using foundational messaging. So, keep the concept of anchoring bias in mind when delivering a well-planned reasoning presentation to your prospects.

There it is. Never forget that the first person to make their case usually establishes the baseline of the hearer’s beliefs. During your sales presentation, you have an opportunity to shape your prospects’ viewpoints. Why not make a case for your product or service, so you make the sale and not your competitor?

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