Cognitive Biases in Sales - Part 1: Transference

January 13, 2020
10 Minute Read

Salespeople are dealing with cognitive biases on a daily basis when it comes to their prospects, and they often have no idea what's happening. In some of the latest research on cognitive biases, scientists are suggesting some techniques that, if you use them, can help you a lot in sales. In part one of this three part series we are going to talk about the top cognitive biases happening in your sales process right now and how you can use applied neuroscience techniques to get better results faster.


The first cognitive bias is called transference. What the heck is transference? Have you ever been in a situation where somebody accused you of doing something or being something that you're not because of something they had experienced in the past? This happens a lot of times in dating, when a new boyfriend or girlfriend has to explain, “I'm not like your ex; I'm a totally new person”. Well, this can happen in sales too.

What's happening with buyers is they're experiencing transference in two different parts of the selling process. First, they're transferring all the old sales behaviors of previous salespeople that they've not liked onto you as a salesperson. Second, they're transferring previous product buying decisions, things they weren’t happy with, and projecting those bad experiences onto you and your sales process.

Let's talk about when your prospect might have some baggage from previous bad salespeople that they are transferring onto you. Some examples of that might be, a salesperson that was too pushy or maybe sold them the wrong product. It could be a salesperson that didn't know what they were doing or never talked to that lead again after they made a purchase. So how can you avoid having a prospect transfer all the old bad behaviors of another salesperson onto you?

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BadvsGoodFrom an applied neuroscience perspective, you have to create more distinction between you and that bad sales experience they've had in the past. A lot of times when someone’s had a bad experience with a salesperson, that salesperson was overly certain. They were saying, "This is absolutely the right fit for you. I know for sure this is going to work." and they were extra pushy. So, to create distinction, you need to separate yourself from that old salesperson through how you're behaving. You can say something like, "Well, let me just make sure we can help you in the first place. I'd like to ask you some more questions just to make sure that we actually do have the right fit for you."

Anchorman---Bad-decisionNow when it comes to products or services, buyers can have projection and transference onto your product or service because of bad experiences they've had in the past. Maybe they bought a product or service that they’ve never used before. Maybe they bought a product or service then the company went out of business. Maybe they bought a product or service and their team never used it. You see this a lot when companies by different software. An executive could make a purchasing decision and when they try to on-board it to a team there's all sorts of integration problems or problems with adoption.

As a salesperson, how you're going to be experiencing this is, your buyer's going to be giving you all sorts of resistance. They may not be telling you the truth. They may be acting in a way that you think, "This is a really slam dunk product. I know this is going to help the company, but what's going on? Why is this executive resisting?" Well, it might be that they're transferring an old product or service purchase decision onto you. So how do you handle that bias?

ClientPoint can improve your ability to communicate with your prospect, Schedule a Demo to learn more.


Elephant-in-the-room_Crop-1One of the things you need to do is validate that those transferences are correct. This is one of the top ways to distinguish yourself and distinguish your product or service. You can even call out that elephant in the room and say, "I know sometimes in the past when people make purchasing decisions that have to do with software or X, Y, Z, or roofing, or whatever it may be. I know that there's some companies out there that don't always do a great job. Or sometimes the on-boarding ends up being terrible. Or sometimes you can buy a product or service and it doesn't end up ever getting implemented. We see that all the time, sir or ma'am. Here's what we do to solve that."


Another thing you can do is tell your story or your company's story, start with why. If you tell the why behind what you do as a salesperson or the why of your company on a sales call, that's going to create more distinction for you as a salesperson and your company.


off to see the wizard

One more way you can create more distinction, is if you allow your prospect to go through a brand-new journey with you instead of acting like you've been down this road a hundred times before. This can be really helpful. Imagine if you went to talk to a therapist and that they watched your body language as you came into the room. Then they immediately said, "I know exactly what's going on with you. Here's what you need to do." That would be a really bad experience.

Similarly, if a prospect is in your sales process and you're just acting like you know at all, that you have all the questions answered, and that you do this all day for living. What happens is you rob that prospect of taking a journey with you as a salesperson. Instead, act as if the sales conversation you're having is the first conversation that you're having ever on this particular topic and you're experiencing these new feelings and these new thoughts with your prospect at the same time. It's much more powerful, you'll have more fun, you'll have more energy, and your prospects will buy from you more regularly.

Remember, from the very first second that your prospects say hello to you, they're projecting and transferring all the experiences from any sales conversation or any product or service that they've ever bought, onto this new conversation. So, keep in mind to create more distinction and more separation with yourself as a salesperson and with your product or service, in order to eliminate that cognitive bias from your sales process.

Schedule a Consultation to see how ClientPoint can enhance your sales process.

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