This way you avoid the pitfalls of the information gap

Marcel Hoefman | 13-05-2020

“So tiring,” Daan sighed. “I have clearly told our sales team that they have to get started with our new proposition and hardly anything happens! What don't they understand? How many times do I have to repeat it?”

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 “So tiring,” Daan sighed. “I have clearly told our sales team that they have to get started with our new proposition and hardly anything happens! What don't they understand? How many times do I have to repeat it?”

To answer these two questions directly:

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

How many times should I repeat it? Well, often. Very often. So often that you think: how many more times? And then even more often.

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

If a product or service is more complex and/or low-interest, it is a different story.
Sales professionals often largely determine whether something will be a success or not. Then the human factor comes into the picture. And Daan is responsible for that.
Daan joined the development of the new product at an early stage and is therefore ahead of time.
Critical questions he had have been answered. His doubts and insecurities have been discussed. The opportunities and threats have been analyzed. Until the product was 'ready to launch'.
There will be a flaming kick-off, kinky online exposure and a handy sales demo for the sales team. Let's sell!
And then it becomes quiet. Too quiet. Not only with Daan's team, but also with other sales teams. Much to the incomprehension of Daan and his fellow managers. Because it is clear what needs to be done, isn't it?
That's right. Especially for management. They are in all kinds of consultation structures, meetings, email groups, app groups, etc. These are all moments and channels where information is shared and processed and where new information is created.

And the sales team? They are mainly concerned with sales. Do not participate in the same consultation structures and meetings as their managers. Are in other email and app groups. Receive different information through other channels at other times. Different information leads to different beliefs and different behavior. It is therefore not surprising that a mismatch in expectations and behavior arises. With all kinds of possible consequences: irritation, misunderstandings, frustration, disappointment, you name it. Annoying, slowing down and unnecessary. Because as a manager you cannot prevent the existence of the information gap, but you can prevent its pitfalls. Three practical tips:

  1. Discuss the 'why' regularly.
    Do this specifically. And not because it's so hip to talk about your 'why'. In other words: why is our new product, service or new behavior good for:
    - the customer?
    - the organisation?
    – the sales professional himself?
  2. Beware of assumptions about people's behavior.
    Regularly test understanding, acceptance and motivation. Behavior is mainly influenced by our environment. Therefore, keep testing, coaching, checking, communicating and inspiring. Do we still remember what we agreed? And how do we approach that? What about (self)confidence? And the motivation?
    One-off commitment to different behavior does not constitute a permanent commitment to action in practice.
  3. Be aware of the information gap between manager and employee
    Regularly check the impact of information you receive
    for your sales force. How does this affect their practice?
    How will people react? Translate relevant information clearly and via the right channel to the right people. 

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


Marcel Hoefman

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