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How You Can Crush the Biggest Sales-Killing Mental Bias When we enter a sales situation with a pre-conceived idea, we look for confirmation to support that idea. That usually ends badly.

By Jeff Shore Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


It falls under the psychological classification of "cognitive error." It takes us to a place we do not wish to go. It prevents us from assisting a customer and closing the deal in the way we ought to.

In other words, it kills sales -- every day.

Related: If You Can't Overcome These 5 Mental Hurdles, Then Don't Start a Business

It's called "confirmation bias." The abbreviated layman's definition: when we enter a sales situation with a pre-conceived idea, we look for confirmation to support that idea.

An example will serve us well. An entrepreneur develops a mindset that he cannot land a sale on the first appointment.

"This is a relationship sale," he tells himself, "and relationships take time."

He approaches a customer and begins that important relationship-building process, knowing that a second visit (or third, or fourth) is a given. His confirmation bias causes him to listen for any statement that supports his belief.

Five minutes into the conversation, the customer states, "Just so you know, we have only just begun the process of determining our furniture needs."

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

"I knew it!" says the entrepreneur's subconscious brain. "You can't get the sale on the first appointment."

Related: This Is the No. 1 Mistake Salespeople Make

Now, maybe you connected with that story and maybe you did not, but confirmation bias shows up in a myriad of ways:

  • Pre-conceived belief: "Most people are just evaluating their options."
    Confirmation bias trigger: "We just started looking at this." (There it is -- concrete proof they are not going to buy, right?)
  • Pre-conceived belief: "You have to have all the decision-makers present."
    Confirmation bias trigger: "My finance director is going to want to see this." (Fair enough, but can you decide without her?)
  • Pre-conceived belief: "People from some cultures are ruthless negotiators."
    Confirmation bias trigger: "Do you have any incentives"? (Note that this is just a question, not a character attack.)
  • Pre-conceived belief: "Our pricing seems too aggressive."
    Confirmation bias trigger: "Is there room in the price?" (Same thing -- it's just a question.)
  • Pre-conceived belief: "The buying process takes time."
    Confirmation bias trigger: "We're not in a hurry." (Note that they did not say they wouldn't purchase today.)
This might take some soul-searching, but you must consciously crush the confirmation biases that you carry around in your head right now.

Start by assuming that these biases do, in fact, exist in your own mind. Go on a hunt to identify those biases, create a new positive paradigm and beat them down with a stick.

Then, move forward and change your customer's world!

Related: 2 Surefire Ways to Tell Whether Your Startup Can Win, If You Avert Clouded Judgment

Jeff Shore

Entrepreneur, Sales Expert and Author; Founder of Shore Consulting

Jeff Shore, of Shore Consulting, is a sought-after sales expert, speaker, author and consultant whose latest book, Be Bold and Win the Sale: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Boost Your Performance, was published by McGraw-Hill Professional in January 2014.

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