Assessment, Assessment, Assessment

by Guy Ralfe on November 18, 2009


I am sure we have all experienced how when we meet someone for the first time we draw a gut feeling about someone – the saying goes “first impressions count!” What many people don’t realize is how this impression affects their decision making.

Let’s say we go in to buy a car at a dealership, the smooth looking salesman walks over and introduces himself and immediately gets down to business of asking pointed questions so that he can make the quick kill sale. Your immediate reaction is to draw a negative impression about this individual and you prepare yourself for the situation ahead of prying questions and being cornered into signing on the dotted line! Our muscles tense, our bullshit meter goes into the red and we physically begin shutting down. We would challenge everything they claim and scrutinize every detail of the paperwork presented to us – if we even got any further with the individual.

What then if the same salesman cracked a joke about his approach saying he was only joking, just wanted to see our reaction and then graciously introduced himself and offered his help in an open and friendly manner. Provided we see the funny side of the situation we would have our bodies relax, we might then engage in conversation and move forward in working with the salesman. What we will find is that as the salesman addresses us by name and provides references we trust or believe we may then begin to like interacting with the salesperson.

Are we losing our minds? Here are the same two people coming together for the same reason under the same situation and yet the situation changed so much in the way we wanted to interact. I am sure most people can associate to a similar situation in their lives if not often.

Now let’s look at the results of these two situations –later when the buyer asks does the car have climate control? The sales man replies and says “yes, it has air conditioning”. To the piqued buyer at the initial reaction, they will inquire further – does it automatically adjust and how many zones does it have? The salesman can then answer that “no that is only available on the next model up costing $X more”. To the buyer when they had warmed to the salesman and were now trusting of the salesman, they will accept the response and likely ask another question, but in their mind they will have come to the conclusion that they have an electronic climate control with the features they envision.

This is not about the stereotypical auto salesman or placing in doubt the ethical nature of the sale – the issue is that the buyer comes to believe that they are told by the salesperson that they have climate control when the salesman answered “air conditioning”.

I see this happening in many areas of business. For me it shows up often on projects where people build up their own interpretation of what the future situation will be based on their wants and desires – this can be a shock when they confront reality and realize that the situation they were expecting was based on assessments they drew, from their own answers.

Life is too short not to make gut decisions – so where decisions matter to you, make sure you have a good assessment for granting someone your trust, then ask the questions you need to make the right assessment.

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