BLINK- Book Review Part 2: Where Our Instincts Betray Us

Michele Richman | September 22, 2010

In Part 2 of BLINK, author Malcolm Gladwell demonstrates where our unconscious fails us and we make the wrong snap decisions.  He presents a study where individuals of all different sexes and races went to car dealerships wearing the same type of clothes, saying they lived in the same affluent neighborhoods, and earning the same income in the same professions.  Despite that, the results were that the majority of sales people offered the white men initial offers that were $725 above invoice, white women $935 above invoice, black men $1551 above invoice and black women $1195 above invoice.  In other words despite the fact that they all presented with the same socioeconomic and education levels, the snap judgments of the sales peoples' subconscious'  were that black women were "suckers" who would pay way more than the cars were worth.  In actuality, these snap judgments made them lose many sales.

As an example of a car salesman who avoids snap judgment, Gladwell describes Bob Golumb, one of the most successful car salesmen in NJ.  Golumb has 3 rules that he always follows: 1) Take care of the customer; 2) take care of the customer; and 3) take care of the customer! Additionally, Golumb treats every customer exactly the same as he's aware how dangerous snap judgments are when it comes to race, sex and appearance.  He quotes everyone the same price, sacrificing high profit margins on an individual car for the benefits of satisfied customers telling their friends and family about his fairness and thus increasing his overall volume.

This translates well to where we also operate under the premise of Take Care of the Customer.  However, we should always be aware of our subconscious biases and not inadvertently treat customers differently.  For instance, we may be contacted by an extremely elderly customer and not give him a fair sales pitch because we assume that he won't buy our product as he doesn't even know how to use the internet.  However, this same individual may be the senior partner of a large firm looking for an online law firm CLE package, and by letting our biases guide our treatment of him we may lose a lot of business.  Thus, just like Golumb, we must take care of the customers by treating them all the same.  We can do this by working equally hard for each sale by offering packages based on our products not our biases of the customers.

In Part 3, I will go into further detail of how we can control our snap judgements and first impressions to make sure we are making the right decisions.

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