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    It Makes No Sense to Trust Common Sense

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    I was speaking with a friend recently about something we disagree on. When I asked them to explain their position, they said, “Oh, it’s just common sense.”

    But it wasn’t “common sense” to me. In fact, it made no sense at all to me.

    And that got me thinking about how we use the phrase “common sense” to refer to things we think ought to be obvious to everyone. But very often they’re not obvious to everyone, and sometimes they’re downright wrong.

    In January this year, researchers at Wharton and Penn released a study on exactly this. They recognized that there is no consensus on what exactly “common sense” is, and set out to create a framework for understanding it.

    There is no consensus on what exactly “common sense” is.

    In honor of their work, and in honor of the friend who told me “it’s just common sense” that some people should be discriminated against… here are 4 types of “common sense” that don’t actually make sense… and can tank your sales effectiveness.

    1. Religious/cultural “common sense”
      In the case of my friend, what they consider “common sense” is actually a religious belief that is so ingrained in them that they think it must be obvious to everyone else.

      Religious/cultural beliefs and practices often seem to us to be “common sense” even when they’re not. I read a story about a woman who was raised among royalty. She talked about cultural norms that seemed ordinary to her but would be strange to most of us. For instance:

      - When an older family member walks into the room, everyone stands up
      - When attending a family gathering with your spouse, you always stand next to your spouse

      To people who were raised in this context, these are just “common sense,” but to the rest of us they’re not.

      In a sales context, this can apply to rules of etiquette or core beliefs that someone carries. For example, a salesperson might think it’s “just common sense” that you don’t “pester” someone with a follow-up email, when in fact follow-up emails might be appreciated and effective.
    2. Professional/knowledge based “common sense”
      When you spend a lot of time in a profession or with a body of knowledge, it can be easy to forget that not everyone knows what you know. Things that represent actual expertise can start to feel like “common sense.”

      For instance, senior salespeople may understand their job so well that it’s “common sense” to them that you have to ask discovery questions and find out who all the stakeholders are. To a new salesperson, however, this may not be obvious at all.
    3. “Common sense” based in historical information
      Sometimes, people think something is “common sense” because they learned it once, long ago. They may not realize that information is no longer correct, because it is still passed around over and over again.

      An example in our industry is the historical statistic that buyers “complete X% of the buying journey before they speak to a salesperson.” This seems like “common sense” to some people, but that data point is old, undefined, and not comprehensive to begin with. Most importantly, it excludes the fact that most of your potential future customers aren't on any “buying journeys” at all.

      There are lots of statistics that get thrown around in our business that are old or out of context, yet we continue to treat them like they’re obvious and known and accurate.
    4. “Common sense” that you know… but don’t apply
      Just because everyone knows you shouldn’t try to sell to just one stakeholder doesn’t mean nobody does it. It may be “common sense” that you shouldn’t skip straight to presentation… yet most salespeople still do it.

    You can probably think of a dozen examples of “common sense” that your teams don’t apply, even though they know it.

    For all of these reasons, any reliance on the idea of “common sense” is dangerous to you and your sales teams. It’s too easy to become complacent, to expect our teams to know what we know, or to allow false information to proliferate unchecked, when we call it “common sense.”

    That’s why you need a sales process that’s milestone-baswd, that you can train and hold your team accountable to. You simply cannot rely on “common sense” to guide your teams.

    What are some types of “common sense” that you think are neither common nor sense?

    George Brontén
    Published February 28, 2024
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn