What jury duty taught me about persuasion

We ALL have to agree?!?!

Last week was a revelation for me. For the first time in my thirty six years being on this earth I was selected for…Jury Duty! And no, I’d say it’s not as bad as I’d been warned by friends and colleagues who have done a whole of things to get out of it I actually enjoyed serving. None the less being on a jury, and having to collectively decide the fate of a defendant (in this case on a murder charge) reminded me of just how tough building a consensus to make a decision can be in law or in a purchasing decision.

A collection of twelve people, myself included were presented were a relatively straight forward set of facts, evidence and accounts of what happened — open and shut right? No, absolutely not! We were deadlocked for a little over a day (roughly one third the length of the trial) coming to a unanimous decision. Largely due to the magnitude of the outcome in this case we went back and forth slowly reviewing every piece of evidence, legal ease and information we received from the judge. At the end, the fact that we were able to come to a unanimous decision, helped along by being sequestered, seemed like a minor miracle. But that made me wonder about the sales process…

How in the heck companies come to decisions when making a major purchase!?!?

Like a trial there is a similar outcome, and multiple sides presented but that’s where the similarities end. Vendors, unlike attorneys, don’t get equal opportunities to plead their case, decision makers can take the role of judge and jury, and worse they each bring a different perspective or problem to solve. So how do reps effectively build consensus?

  • Proof of Concept (Direct proof) goes a long way, but that’s not the end of it. Sometimes you win the POC, but lose the war.
  • Case studies (witness accounts) can help, but can leave you doubting their credibility or applicability to your company, industry or specific problem.
  • Analysts/Reliable 3rd Party Proof Points (expert witnesses) definitely bring credence to arguments, but they’re also skewed by the side presenting the analysis (e.g. – everyone seems to be the ‘best in some narrowly defined.
  • Demos (videos/pictures) can paint a picture but always seem to leave you just a touch skeptical of ‘something missing.’
  • Reps (lawyers) they face skepticism and credibility concerns from the start.

It really seems to come down to who can build the most convincing story and sway the majority of the votes, keeping in mind that do nothing (hung jury) is always an option.

Really the experience was humbling and made me appreciate the massive efforts sales people need to exert to sway a decision in their favor. So I’ll leave a parting question for you:

What’s the most effective way you’ve had or seen for building consensus during a buying/selling decision? Thanks and comment below.

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