This way you avoid the pitfalls of the information gap

Marcel Hoefman 13-05-2020

"So exhausting", Daan sighed. "I have clearly told our sales team that they have to work with our new proposition and hardly anything is happening! What don't they understand? How many times do I have to repeat it?"

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 "So exhausting", Daan sighed. "I have clearly told our sales team that they have to work with our new proposition and hardly anything is happening! What don't they understand? How many times do I have to repeat it?"

Just to answer these two questions directly:

What don't they understand? Probably a lot they don't. Not the why, not the why now, not exactly how, not why it's good for their customers, for the company and certainly not why it's good for themselves.

How many times do I have to repeat it? Well, often. Very often. As many times as you think. How many more times? And then more often.

What's going on in this situation? Daan is dealing with a typical managerial problem: the information gap. This is the difference between the information Daan has as a manager and the information his sales team receives. In professional terms we call this 'information asymmetry'.
In many organizations information trickles down top-down. In the company where Daan is manager it works the same way. Daan has been asked to work in a project group on a new proposition. The management and policymakers see opportunities for broadening the product range, developing and testing R&D, marketing snare around it and sell it. This often works particularly well for simple products and services.

If a product or service is more complex and/or low-interest, it becomes a different story.
Often sales professionals determine to a large extent whether something is a success or not. Then the human factor comes into the picture. And Daan is responsible for that.
Daan hooked up early in the development of the new product and therefore has a time advantage.
Critical questions he had answered. His doubts and uncertainties have been discussed. Opportunities and threats have been analysed. Until the product was 'ready to launch'.
A flaming kick-off, kinky online exposure and handy sales demo for the sales team followed. Let's sell!
And then it gets quiet. Too quiet. Not only with Daan's team, but also with other sales teams. To the incomprehension of Daan and his fellow managers. Because it's clear what needs to be done, isn't it?
That's right. Especially for the management. They are in all kinds of consultation structures, meetings, mail groups, app groups, etcetera. These are all moments and channels where information is shared and processed and where new information is created.

And the sales team? They mainly deal with sales. Are not in the same consultative structures and meetings as their managers. Sitting in other mail and app groups. Get other information through other channels at other times. Other information leads to different beliefs and behaviour. Not so strange that a mismatch of expectations and behaviour arises. With all kinds of possible consequences: irritation, misunderstandings, frustration, disappointment, you name it. Annoying, slowing down and unnecessary. Because as a manager, you can't prevent the existence of the information gap, but you can prevent its pitfalls. Three tips from practice:

  1. Discuss the 'why' regularly.
    Do this especially concretely. And not because it's so cool to talk about your 'why'. In other words: why is our new product, our new service or new behaviour good for:
    - the customer?
    - The organisation?
    - the sales professional himself?
  2. Watch out for assumptions about people's behaviour.
    Regularly test understanding, acceptance and motivation. Behaviour is mainly influenced by our environment. Keep testing, coaching, checking, communicating and inspiring. Do we still know what we have agreed? And how do we go about it? What about (self) trust? And the motivation?
    A once-only commitment for other behaviour is not a permanent commitment for doing things in practice.
  3. Be aware of the information gap between manager and employee
    Check regularly what the impact is of information you receive
    for your sales force. What impact does this have on their practice?
    How will people react? Translate relevant information clearly and through the right channel to the right people. 

Information asymmetry exists in every organization. Especially in turbulent circumstances you have to be alert to this. This not only prevents pitfalls, disappointment and misunderstandings. It reinforces understanding, desired behaviour and therefore results.
And according to Daan it is also a lot less tiring!


Marcel Hoefman

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