Cognitive Biases in Sales - Part 2: Substitution

January 15, 2020
5 Minute Read

Today we're continuing the talk about cognitive biases that salespeople are running into on a daily basis. This is part two of the Cognitive Biases in Sales series and if you missed part one check it out here.

This cognitive bias thing can be a little hard to believe. So, if you care to, there's a really good book you can read called, Thinking, Fast and Slow. This thing is a textbook, but it's really humbling because as you read it, it'll take you through the cognitive biases that you have, and you'll believe us.


The second cognitive bias we’re talking about is called substitution. As it relates to sales, it’s that thing that happens when your prospect gets overwhelmed. Here's an example. You're taking your prospect through a complex buying cycle, and they're a little bit overwhelmed because their life is overwhelming anyway. You've got a complex technology and maybe they have a lot of moving parts on their side or other stakeholders they need to manage.

What can happen is, instead of asking themselves the hard question, "What product or service is actually the best product or service for me to invest in for my business?", their brain substitutes it for an easier question. Their brain gets overwhelmed, goes into cognitive dissonance, and instead they ask, "How can I make this easier? Let's ask an easier question."

So, instead of asking, "What's the best product?", your brain asks, "What's the least expensive option?" or "What salesperson do I like the most?" or "What vendor has the best logos on their website?" or even something as simple as, "What product looks the easiest to use?"

You might be selling some of the most sophisticated products in the world, with a better product value, but it might not look as good on the outside. So, your prospects can get overwhelmed when looking at your product and think, "Well, I think XYZ company, just looks a little easier to use. So, let's go ahead and do that." Now, there are a couple of things that you can do to offset this cognitive bias.

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First, you can acknowledge to your prospects that cognitive biases are real in their buying process. You can let them know,

"Hey, I know making a product or service decision as it relates to this particular decision or service can be really difficult, and it can be a little bit overwhelming. So what can end up happening is in this overwhelm, ma'am or sir, you can end up accidentally making a quick decision. Like which salesperson do I liked the best or which is cheapest, when actually it may not be the best product or service."

So, you need to educate your prospects on their likeliness of getting overwhelmed, and you need to coach them through that. Let them know that it's probably going to occur.


The second thing you can do to eliminate this cognitive bias of substitution is, you can create a checklist or a Q&A. You can start explaining to that particular prospect that, "Hey, a lot of times when making this type of decision, it can be a little bit overwhelming. So, what we've done is created a little checklist for you to start to eliminate some of that overwhelm.” And, as a salesperson, you can use this as kind of a secret weapon.

You'll send them or walk them through a digital guide that you've created. And it will take them through the tough questions that the prospect needs to ask themselves and other vendors in order to really identify that your product or service is the best solution. Again, what you’re trying to avoid here is the substitution cognitive biases that's going to happen in your prospect's mind every single time they're overwhelmed.

Substitution is a reason that you may have lost a ton of sales in the past, especially when you think for sure that you’ve got this prospect, or you’ve got this buyer. Then they make some weird decision or a decision to not move forward at all. Maybe they even said, "Well, the easier thing to do is not to do anything right now."

So, make sure you try these tactics to allow your prospects to get rid of some of that overwhelm and actually make truly informed and educated decisions that have nothing to do with substitution.

If would like to explore some technology that can offset some of the cognitive biases that your prospects are dealing with, Click Here. We'd love to show you a demo.

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