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Decisions Come from the Gut

Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball examined how one man turned the Oakland A’s from second-stringers into a top-tier team, simply by using data. The reason that this book was so astounding was that it pointed out a fallacy in human thinking. Even when we think that we’re making logical, rational decisions, we actually usually go with our gut.

Think about it. How often have you been in the process of hiring a new employee, and hesitated to hire someone who had perfect qualification, just because of “a feeling?” You’re not the only one.

Economic research that won the 2002 Nobel Prize found that over and over again, human beings–from world leaders to small-time business entrepreneurs–are prone to make decisions based on irrational reasoning. Instead of gathering data and operating strictly on those principles, we tend to go with gut feelings.

However, this isn’t always bad! In fact, many of the major success stories of our time come from people who trusted and pursued their gut instinct.

Gut Decisions Are Faster

The wonder of making decisions based on feelings is that our feelings usually respond to clues of what’s going on faster than rational thought. So if we have a short period of time to make decisions, sometimes a gut feeling is our best bet. Get decisions are more than just whims; they’re the unconscious accumulation of data, weighted according to personal priorities and memory.

Intuition Is Hard to Distinguish from Emotion

One of the most common misconceptions about gut decisions is that they’re the same as emotional decisions. Well, the truth is that they don’t have to be! When listening to our intuition, we need to stop and analyze their decisions to determine whether we’re feeling anxious, scared, threatened, or leaning too heavily on a singular experience of the past. Emotions can cloud intuition.

What This Means for Sales

Whether it’s better to go with your gut instinct or trust data… that’s a different discussion for a different day. Discovering the advantages and disadvantages for yourself might help you hone your business decision-making skills. Learning to utilize intuition to your advantage could help you grow your business and succeed. However, what we want to focus on is what this balance means for you as a marketer and salesperson.

Build Your Brand: As we said, intuition the accumulated data of a lifetime, most of that unconscious. Often, people won’t know why they have a good or bad feeling about something, but it’s determined by past experience and exposure. That’s why building your brand is a long-term project. Although people may not always be taking conscious note of your business and brand, they’re still going to be exposed to it with different levels of approval or disapproval. If the associations that they’ve built in concert with hearing your brand are bad, it might contribute to a bad gut instinct about you in the future, and negative feelings about your brand.

Use More than Numbers: Though many of us like to think that we are rational creatures, we’re seldom convinced by bare numbers over intangible personal leanings. Remember that when you’re advertising and selling. Although numbers can be good indicators of trust and success, in the end, most of your customers will go off instinct.

Prioritize Your Message: According to social psychologist Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer, gut instinct comes from centuries of evolution wherein we quickly prioritize decision-making, giving one or two ways of looking at information greatest weight, and then disposing of unnecessary information. Make sure that instead of bombarding your customers with information, you prioritize the points that you would like them to focus on.

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