Cognitive Bias when Selling Broadband

One of the most successful ways to sell broadband on a newly constructed network is door-to-door sales. I know of numerous fiber overbuilders who have has great success with this sales method. Companies that sell this way all say that some salespeople do better than others.

I’m not going to cover the giant topic of sales training in a short blog, but I’ve been reading about one aspect of the sales process recently. Social scientists have been doing a lot of research into the topic of cognitive bias – the ways that brains take shortcuts to avoid having to do hard thinking all of the time. When somebody answers the door for a sales call, they often automatically react to the salesperson with various kinds of cognitive bias behavior that has to be overcome to make a sale. We’ve all heard that some people are natural-born salespeople, and that means that they have the talent of recognizing cognitive bias. Luckily, this is something that can also be learned.

Here are some examples of the most common kinds of cognitive bias encountered in door-to-door sales.

Attentional Bias. This is the bias where somebody’s actions are affected by the memory of experiences they’ve had in similar circumstances. A salesperson must react quickly if they hear, “I don’t buy from door-to-door salesmen” before the door is slammed in their face.

Confirmation Bias. This is when a person embraces their existing beliefs. Somebody who thinks they already did a great job in picking their current broadband product and provider might not want to admit that they could have done better.

Status Quo Bias. This is a natural desire to keep things the same. This might be the most common objection to buying faster broadband – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Reactance. Reactance is the natural impulse to do the opposite of what you’re told to maintain a sense of independence. In the sales process, this manifests as somebody who perceives the salesperson as pushy and who then reacts to the salesperson rather than to the sales presentation.

Loss Aversion. This is the brain’s natural tendency to fear losses more than gains. This manifests in a fiber sales if the expected installation and conversion process is perceived to be a bigger hassle than the resultant benefit from better broadband.

Bandwagon Effect. This is a bias that can work in a salesperson’s benefit. People tend to be influenced by what their neighbors do, so being able to tell them that their neighbors have already purchased can overcome reluctance. But this can work against a new market entrant if people perceive that sticking with the brand name incumbent is the consensus choice.

Ambiguity Effect. This is the tendency for the brain to avoid scenarios where the outcome is uncertain. Even if customers accept the benefits of faster broadband, they might worry about network outages or the responsiveness of the new provider in responding to customer service calls. Uncertainty can stop them from making a change.

Selection Bias. This is the natural tendency of the brain to notice more of something when it’s brought to their attention. In the sales process, this might mean that a potential customer will assume that your product has many of the same flaws and problems as their current product.

Mere Exposure Effect. This is the tendency for the brain to accept something if they are already familiar with it. This is why companies do brand advertising in a market along with door-to-door sales. A lot of potential customers are a lot more comfortable considering a new broadband product if they are already familiar with the new provider. This is also why ISPs often do well when moving into neighboring communities where many people already know thier name and have heard about them.