Assumption is the Mother of Misunderstanding! – Always Ask and Listen

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You probably know that not everyone shares your opinions about things, but have you ever thought just how often you make assumptions that lead to misunderstanding?

I’m convinced that most of our communication and relationship problems stem from the assumptions we carelessly make.  Once a friend from Portugal came to stay with me.  She was visiting Melbourne for a few days as part of her tour around Australia and she wanted to see the sights.  So I planned to take her along the Great Ocean Road, into the Dandenongs, and the Mornington Peninsula up to Arthur’s Seat and see all the wonderful beaches and views because those are all the things I love!

My thought was, “What can I show her that’s really beautiful and uniquely Melbourne?” and I assumed that she would want to see and do the things I would like, if I were in her position.  I was so busy making a program that fit my own assumptions about Melbourne that I completely missed the clues she gave me.  In conversations before her visit, she talked about the shows she saw when she was in London and how much she loved the theatre and the arts.  She even mentioned an Art exhibition that was going on at the National Gallery and all that sort of stuff but I missed it completely. So we started doing the things I had planned and she was miserable the whole time and I’m thinking, “How come she’s not enjoying herself?  This is awful.”

The next day she asked, “How do I get to the trains and the public transport?” 

I said,  “Where do you want to go? I’ll take you.” 

And she says, “I really want to go to National Art Gallery and see an exhibition that’s on there at the moment” and it occurred to me that I’d just totally missed all the cues of the things that she wanted to do, I was so excited about bringing her and showing her all these things that I thought were really cool that I forgot to find out what interested her.

I see sales people and business owners all the time who are so concerned that they won’t say the right thing, that they miss all the cues.

They assume that people aren’t biting on the bait they’re putting out there because they’re not getting the words right.  In a lot of cases they’re so caught up on what they’re going to say next or what they’re going to do next that they don’t actually hear the buying signs from the clients.

Most people actually tell you what they need if you’re listening carefully enough.  Sometimes I do role-plays with my clients where I actually get them to sell to me and it’s really interesting watching them just make assumptions about what my needs could be rather than actually spending some time asking some questions.

This comes back to the part of the sales process we are actually finding out information from the clients.  So the first thing that people who are not necessarily well versed in sales do is they go in and they’ve prepared all the things that they’re going to say to make sure that that client gets interested in what they want them to be interested in.  In actual fact the best thing you can do when you go into a sales meeting is to ask some questions and then shut up and listen.

Then you listen some more – and if you open your mouth at all, it’s to ask questions about the things they are saying.  If you do that, I can just about guarantee that you will learn what you need to know to close the sale.  You would really be astounded to learn how many sales are lost just because we make assumptions about what the other person is looking for.

One of the most powerful tools of NLP is learning to ask questions and read the other person – not to manipulate them, but to hear what their problems and concerns really are.  The techniques I learned have closed more sales, and resolved more communication issues than I can count.

Meta Description: How do assumptions kill sales and negotiations?  Let me count the ways. Assuming you know what the other person is going to say is a very dangerous habit, and will kill sales faster than just about any other thing you can do.

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