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Assumptive behavior holding your business back? A cautionary tale

Making assumptions can hold you back not only in your business, but can cost you business. Read this cautionary tale to make sure you’re on top of your game.

Sitting down for a professional lunch

Imagine sitting down to lunch with a potential client at a small bistro on the north side. You’re wearing a classic light blue button up top with collar stays and unassuming cuff links. Your potential client arrives in a sharp black suit. Firm handshakes are exchanged, the weather is discussed and you are shown to your table in the rear of the bistro.

Your client recommends the acorn squash soup that is to die for, so you oblige and both order soup and sandwiches that the bistro is so famous for. You hear the clink of silverware and dishes and your ice glasses are refilled with regularity. The conversation turns to business and you read that your client’s body language is positive – they are leaning in and their eyebrows are raised and they are slightly smiling. Your client is completely engaged in your pitch and receptive and you are nailing it.

Your meal arrives and you both unroll your white linen napkins and place them in your laps. You reach for the salt and your client reaches for their spoon. You both start eating and chatting, but you notice your client’s body language has changed, but you let it go because the waitress was fairly rude when she placed the bowls on the table with a thud. Your client has another appointment coming up, so you eat relatively hastily, but your pitch was fantastic and you know you two had great synergy.

When you get back to your office, your client has already emailed you, but instead of a gracious note of enjoyment, you get a brief note of thanks and that your client “will be in touch.” Ouch.

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What went wrong?

A failed test

Several power players are said to have parted ways with potential partners or employees for the very reason you failed the test above. It is said that Thomas Edison invited potential employees to lunch and if they salted their soup before tasting it, they were immediately disqualified because Edison believed this type of person had too many assumptions built into their daily life that would limit creativity and critical thinking. Edison needed people that challenged assumptions on a regular basis.

Howard Hughes, Henry Ford, and J.C. Penny were also said to have used the salt test as a type of litmus for people as salting food is an ingrained behavior. The theory is that salting food before tasting it implies haste and arbitrary judgment calls, not to mention poor manners.

Why the test is stupid

The salt test is an old litmus test that is fairly widely known and is taught in business schools across the globe, so interviewees tend to alter their behavior based on this test and go above and beyond to be overly polite at meals when in an interview situation. This lends to manipulation and presenting ones self in an untrue light.

The tale is cautionary, regardless and challenges people to consider how quickly they make assumptions.

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What assumptions are you making?

Are you assuming that you shouldn’t ask for the sale or referrals because you won’t get them, or that you can’t advance any higher in your company? Are you arbitrarily assuming that you can’t open any new locations or start any new verticals?

On the flip side, what assumptions are you making that your current methods are superior? Are you assuming your pitch is good enough instead of continually tweaking it? Are you assuming that template website you just bought is good enough out of the box? Are you assuming you know everything about your area of expertise and are neglecting continuing education or reading news about your industry?

Don’t lose that client, and don’t make negative or positive assumptions about yourself or your performance that might actually hold you back, just as salt on that soup before tasting it may hold you back.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Jonathan Dusza

    May 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Always eat soup from a spoon pulling away from the bowl too. Pulling towards yourself supposedly means you’re greedy

  2. AgentGenius

    May 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Fascinating, Jonathan Dusza!

  3. Pingback: SalesMaple is a hot new sales tool on mega steroids - AGBeat

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