Are Your Salespeople (and Your Senior Executives) Seeing the World as it REALLY IS?

As a salesperson and a sales manager I loved it when I could get a glimpse of how the senior executives of my company thought.

Sometimes, I was shocked to learn they were seeing the world as it really wasn’t.

Other times I was chagrined to learn I was the one perceiving things incorrectly.

Are your customer-facing people and your senior executives seeing the world as it really is? Or is their world hampered by some kind of bubble, like the security detail around the presidents of the US.

If there is a disconnect between what salespeople and their management sees, is this discrepancy ever even recognized?

Daniel Simons, the co-author of “The Invisible Gorilla” created a wonderful TED video: “Seeing the World as it Isn’t”, that has a great deal to say about how we manage our companies and our sales and marketing:

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Whether you are a wrong-headed salesperson, or CEO, everybody is entitled to mistakes now and then. However, when you are a CEO, these mistakes can have a lot more impact: multi-million dollar product launches that flop, disastrous distribution policies or reorganization schemes, and worse.

Note how Simons makes the point that although our senses seem to be deceiving us, it is a more savvy application of our senses that tells us what is really going on. Evidence rules – if we follow the rules of evidence, which are the means by which we identify reality.

At 5:10, he begins making critical observations that tie to managing sales and marketing in our companies:

  • (Due to unchallenged perceptual appearances like these …) we assume that everyone sees the world exactly as it is.
  • (Despite differences in knowledge, beliefs, and expectations …) we feel like we are seeing the world in the same way as everybody else.
  • This applies not just to our visual perceptions, but also to the way we think, remember, and reason about things. For example, we think we see more detail than we do around us, we think we remember more than we really do, and that we know more than we really do.
  • These illusions lead us to think everyone is seeing the same thing we are, when they may not be seeing things the same way at all.
  • Any time you are trying to be a trainer or a CEO or trying to influence others in any manner, you have to take in to account that your knowledge, experiences, and what you see are going to be different than those of your audience.
  • All of advertising (not to mention all of marketing and selling!) depends on your ability to know exactly what your audience will see in your communications to them.

At 6:37, he makes a brilliant observation:

“Even though we all see the world differently, we all share the illusion that we see the world the same as everybody else. And only by testing your knowledge, by testing what you are seeing, just like you do with a visual illusion, can you realize that you are not actually seeing the world as everybody else is. Only by testing can you see the world as it actually is.”  

We all need to improve our methods of perceiving and checking our understanding. Businesses, especially, need this to prevent multi-million dollar product launches that flop, disastrous distribution policies or reorganization schemes, and worse: salespeople who do not know what they are doing!

Fortunately, that method is becoming better understood every day: it is iterative testing (which is a core principle of process improvement). Yup, good old PDCA.

Michael Webb

Michael Webb founded Sales Performance Consultants to create a data-driven alternative to the slogans and shallow impact offered by typical sales training, sales consulting, and CRM companies. Michael helped organize and delivered the keynote speeches for the first conferences ever held on applying Six Sigma to marketing and sales. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Mohammed AL Jabri - February 20, 2013 Reply


Thanks for your above article and I wish to lean more about your sales method.

Best Regards,

Business Development Executive
Aon Risk Solutions

    Michael Webb - February 22, 2013 Reply

    Mohammed, Thanks for your question, however on this site we are more interested in how management needs to organize, position, and manage the sales force. Sales training issues are important, especially to individual salespeople, but they are not particularly helpful if the management system is not properly grounded in the first place. For learning sales skills, I suggest you investigate Mike Cynar’s website, or others like it.

Tom - February 21, 2013 Reply

Dear Mr. Webb,

Thanks for sending this interesting video and article about how we perceive reality. As a sales trainer and coach, I stress tuning out the world and tuning in to the world of my prospect. This takes good listening skills, discipline, communication skills and a willingness to focus on what are their Perceived needs and wants. Most people don’t like to be sold, but they do like to buy in the manner that suits them best.

One of the biggest myths is selling is that people can be persuaded into buying. We strongly feel that through good interviewing skills, you listen them into to buying a solution to their acknowledged problem or concern. When they enter into the solution process, they sell themselves.

So, concerning an inaccurate view of reality of both the salesperson and the CEO, it’s up to the salesperson to enter into the world as the CEO (or prospect) sees it. Probe it, question its assumptions, tie it to a solution that is emotionally satisfying to the prospect.

With regard to the salesperson’s altered view of reality, most great salespeople have a distorted view in terms of being positive, helpful and capable of solving problems of people in ever higher levels of influence and responsibility. They visualize the rewards of success.



Mike Cynar - February 22, 2013 Reply

With regards to the video, I think he missed the “real” point. I submit that he’s incorrect about everyone seeing the world differently – as we all saw the same illusion in the same video, as can our prospect. The proper conclusion from the video would be that you have the ability to lead people (a/k/a prospects) to see things how you need them to by placing, and keeping their focus where you need it.

    Michael Webb - February 22, 2013 Reply

    Thanks, Mike. I agree with you. I think you also need to conclude that your own perceptions can be manipulated, so both buyer and seller must be-aware, so to speak.

Ray McKinney - February 23, 2013 Reply

Mike, great to hear from you. I look forward to catching up on your latest ventures.
Regards, Ray

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