A client came to me for advice on a sales dilemma. One of his customers was expanding his business and needed to purchase a couple of hundred thousand dollars’ worth of welding and fabricating equipment. In the past, however, this company had been slow to pay and at one time was even on the verge of bankruptcy. My client had already spent many hours resolving financial issues with their CEO. The dilemma — the sales manager’s company needed the sale.  Would he be able to make the customer keep to the agreement this time?

Have you found yourself in a similar position? Your intuition tells you that trouble is ahead, but you reason that this time you can make it work.

Intuition comes first

In his book, The Righteous Mind, author and psychologist Jonathan Haidt gives us helpful advice on this type of dilemma. His first principle of moral psychology is that intuition comes first, and strategic reasoning second. Intuition is defined as a thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling from past experience, rather than from conscious reasoning.  To illustrate his first principle, Haidt uses the analogy of a small rider on a big elephant. The elephant is your intuition, and the rider is a “rationalist delusion.” The large intuitive elephant should cause you to slow down and patiently work with others, despite your desire to move at a faster pace.

Keep your reasoning in check

To keep your “reasoning” in check and your intuition at the forefront, be thorough in your project analysis. My advice to the sales manager with the dilemma outlined above was to spend time with his fellow employees who had also dealt with this customer in question. When he did, he was able to get “the rider”, his reasoning, back in line with his intuition. To solve the question of timely payments, the sales manager introduced a third party financial lender to his client, which enabled him to pay in advance. The equipment was installed with one-time training, and the customer paid COD for all future supply requirements.

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