Working Smarter

Is This Mental Trap Making It Harder for You to Close Deals?

The first time I heard the call-in radio interview with the "deer crossing lady," I couldn't believe it. Tears of laughter were streaming down my face. The more she talked, the worse (or perhaps better) it got.

All I could think of was, "She couldn't really believe what she was saying." But she did!


(If you have 3+ minutes, take a listen. I've enjoyed it many times over!)

The Dunning-Kruger Mental Trap

We all have our blind spots. That's normal. But what fascinates me is that we think we're actually better than we are, a phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

For example, studies have found:

  • 73% of American drivers report that they're better than average.
  • 90% of teenagers think their social skills are above average.
  • 32-42% of software engineers rated their skills as being in the top 5% of their companies.

It’s hard to believe that so many people are superior to their peers. To make matters worse, the less we know about a topic, the higher we rate our competence levels.

...Which, of course, gets me thinking about how this impacts sales.

Case in Point: 

Several years ago, I was in major overwhelm mode. Despite working long hours, I could never get everything done. I was always behind. Exhausted. Plus my creativity, strategic thinking and problem-solving capabilities weren't what they used to be. I could tell.

If you'd have asked me how I'd rate my productivity compared to others, I'd have proudly declared that I was definitely above average. Yet, I was constantly working and never seemed to get ahead. 

After finally deciding that I was sick and tired of feeling that way, I got curious.

  • I started asking my colleagues about their time issues and productivity strategies
  • I googled articles on the topic
  • I read lots of books
And as I experimented with new ways of working, I started seeing very different results. Better results. In fact, my goal was to maintain my same income level, but only work 30 hours/week.

Two years after starting this project (which I write about in More Sales Less Time,) I had my best year ever ... while working fewer hours than I could even imagine.

How could that be? I'm not the ignorant type. Nor are you. The truth is, we're just not that good at evaluating ourselves--especially when we lack knowledge about a particular topic.

How Top Sellers Defeat the Dunning-Krueger Mental Trap

The fewer blind spots we have, the more likely we are to be successful. But we have to get curious. For example:

  • If nobody responds to your phone or email messages, perhaps you could try something different. Something as simple as changing your subject line, your first sentence, the length and even the layout could make a significant difference.

  • If your prospects take forever to make decisions, there might be different strategies you could use to address this situation. You might want to focus more on the business case, engage different or more people, or change your PowerPoint presentation. Talk with your colleagues to find out what's working for them. Do mock-meetings to uncover any potential bottlenecks you're unintentionally creating.

  • If you keep losing to a specific competitor, don't give up. Instead, dig in to study their approach, look for ways to personally become an invaluable asset to your prospects or figure out ways to get in before your competitor.

Top-performing sellers are curious. They constantly focus on deepening their knowledge, honing their skills and building their relationships.

Unlike the "deer-crossing lady," they're keenly aware of how much they don't know. When confronted with obstacles, they want to find out what's causing them. They're driven to get better, smarter, and more strategic. And that's why they succeed.


And seriously, if you haven't listened to the "deer crossing lady" yet, click on this link. It'll make your day!

After a successful career in the sales world, writing five books, and speaking internationally, Jill is now tackling an even bigger challenge. She's focused on bringing the "millions in the middle" together to solve some of the biggest issues facing our country and the world. Jill truly believes so much more is possible if we can work together.