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10 Really Bad Assumptions, Part 1

This is the first of two articles dealing with making assumptions.

The role of an owner or senior executive is to make timely decisions with the information that is at hand. Typically, it seems to be, and in fact often is, the case that there is not enough information—and yet a decision is called for.

It is at these times that we must make reasonable assumptions so that the decision is both the best that can be made at the time and timely enough to allow for proper implementation. However, there are some unreasonable assumptions one might make, and it is safe to call them “bad assumptions.”

Here are the first five of 10 bad—really bad—assumptions that business owners and managers can make, and we will see the final five in next month’s edition.

Bad Assumption #1: Customers will select our product/service because we think it’s good. Of course we think it’s good; we invented it or developed it. But what has that got to do with anything? Pretty much everyone who has invented or developed a product/service thinks it’s good. The key is to show what “good” means to the potential customers. How do they benefit?

Bad Assumption #2: Customers will select our product/service because it’s technically superior. Hmmm … Do you remember the big issue of VHS versus Beta? Recently it’s been Blu-ray versus HD DVD. Technical superiority is a feature, not necessarily a benefit. Customers look for products or services that are user-friendly and work as advertised.

Bad Assumption #3: Customers will agree with our perception that our product/service is great. Really? Too many owners/managers believe that their perception is an accurate reflection of their customers’ perception. This may be true if you’ve been out in the field, observing your product in action and if you’ve asked the right questions. But, if you haven’t done so, don’t be surprised when you learn that your customers see your product negatively.

Bad Assumption #4: Customers run no risk in buying from us instead of from past suppliers. This may be true, but keep in mind that Murphy (of Murphy’s Law fame) was an optimist. If it can go wrong on the first order, it very well may. Beyond telling your new customer that the risk of dealing with you as a new vendor are nil, it would be wise to let your customer know about your contingency plan just in case things go to hell in a hand basket.

Bad Assumption #5: Our product/service will sell itself. Every product/service needs to be sold by delineating its specific benefits to each type of customer. And this effort has to be continuous and accurate.

L. Douglas Mault is president of Executive Advisory Institute, Portland, Ore. The Web site is; he can be reached at (888) 428.3331.

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