We Just Assumed

In which we discuss the dangers of "just assuming" we know what our clients prefer. My son's recovery from wisdom teeth removal included a "dry socket" which, for the uninitiated, translates as dull, throbbing pain at an extraction site accompanied by more than the usual swelling two to three days after the extraction. 

The necessary healing had not occurred; bone and nerve were exposed.  He returned to the oral surgeon’s office to have the site “packed” which involves placing a medicated dressing into the dry socket as a treatment. The packing process boosted his pain level well above “dull, throbbing” during the procedure and immediately after.

As he waited for post-treatment paperwork, he asked, “Why don’t you give anesthetic for that procedure?”

The surgical assistant replied, “Well, we could have done, but most people don’t ask for it so we don’t offer it. We just assumed you wouldn’t want it.”

We just assumed…. Were they joking?

Not all sales conversations lead to such throbbing, painful denouement (noting exceptions for chronic jaw clenchers and grinders). However,  sharp calls from surprised, dissatisfied clients — “Why didn’t you tell me about this?” or “Why didn’t you tell us we needed to know XYZ?” — or mid-sales objections can produce similar effects.

Because we’re so expert at problem recognition and solution and so confident that our solutions will solve the problems, we sometimes leap to the end and just assume that that our clients can handle whatever comes up. For example, “we just assumed that you or someone at your office would be able to install the software” during implementation of a new cash management product.  Or, “we assumed that you’d be able to get access to that.”  Or, “we assumed everyone would know how to get into that site.”

In sales calls, using qualifiers like, “sorry if these questions are too basic” if we must, ask the questions that draw out our client’s capabilities and cover all of the critical implementation elements. [If our product specialists take care of these technical details, great, and take care to ensure that they’ve asked all of those questions.]

Don’t assume anything. Even if nobody ever asks. Consequences can be painful.

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