When you're trying to make a sale, it's best to trust your gut, new research finds.
The first impression salespeople have of a customer's needs and wants is often the correct one, according to a new study in the Journal of Marketing.
"Salespeople can make accurate intuitive judgments of a customer's needs, and those judgments can significantly increase sales," the study's authors wrote. "In fact, when a salesperson deliberately rethinks first impressions of a customer, he or she might lose a potential sale."
For the study, researchers observed the interactions between salespeople, who were paid by commission and motivated to makes sales, and customers for four months at several locations of a national mattress store. In addition, they conducted interviews with both the sales associates and customers.
The study's authors measured the sales force's "intuitive" judgments, which was determined by the accuracy with which they ranked each customer's top needs before interacting with him or her, and their "deliberative" judgments, which were determined by whether they changed their initial impression after rethinking their sales approach. [10 Super Creative Ways to Motivate Sales Teams ]
The researchers discovered that salespeople who didn't purposely rethink their initial judgments made more sales than those who deliberated and then revised their initial impressions.
"The study showed that, while skilled deliberation is useful, overthinking can reduce performance," the study's authors wrote.
To boost their intuitive accuracy, salespeople need to focus on their customers' nonverbal cues, the research found.
"By encouraging salespeople to focus empathetically on a customer's posture and physique, as well as their tone of voice and concrete emotions, empathy training holds real promise for improving intuitive accuracy and overall sales," the study's authors wrote.
In the end, the best salespeople are those who are able to find a balance between trusting their initial instinct and making accurate changes after some additional thought, the researchers found. The study revealed that when salespeople made both judgments, their performance improved by more than 130 percent.
The study was authored by Zachary Hall, an assistant professor at Texas Christian University; Michael Ahearne, a professor at the University of Houston; and Harish Sujan, a professor at Tulane University.