Think In Probabilities, Not Absolutes

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By Alexa Ward

What's On My Mind

I had a great relationship with this guy back at my old firm, years ago, but it’s been forever since we’ve talked. I feel bad I haven’t connected with him in a long time.

I want to reach out, but how should I do it?

I was just asked this by one of my favorite clients, who just rejoined his professional service firm.

​(Cool stuff: he’s running an amazing Business Development Campaign to get his BD flywheel spinning. It's based on our no-charge BD Campaigns training you can get here.)

​My answer to his question?

Don’t overthink it. Just shoot him a short email saying you thought of him, wondered how he’s doing and would love to catch up on a video call.

Turns out our brains are incredibly good at thinking in absolutes.

And the majority of those short-term absolutes are negative.

(Science: here’s a great overview.)

Psychologists have many names for this:

  • Negative Chatter
  • Catastrophizing
  • Bad is stronger than good

How can this impact business development?

  • Opportunities: We won’t tell our clients what they really need to hear because we fear it’s too much or too fast.
  • Relationships: We won’t reach out to be helpful as often as we should, because we fear it’s too soon or has been too long.
  • Career: We‘ll hinder our career because of the above—and also because we won’t test as many new techniques as we should.

Thinking negatively is positively one of the worst things we can do.

So, what can we do about it?

Think in probabilities, not absolutes.

Let’s go back to the outreach example.

​Here’s my take on what will likely happen:

  • 70% chance: he’ll respond back within a week excited to reconnect.
  • 25% chance: he won’t respond back right away but will soon, smiling with fond memories when he first sees the email come through.
  • 5% chance: no response due to random reasons, like he no longer works at that company or is swamped at the moment.

​Absolute-wise, we think the person might not like that we reached out.

Probability-wise, we win 95% of the time.

Let’s go!

​Here’s the cool thing. We can apply this way of thinking to all our important decisions

​What are the probabilities of ditching that PowerPoint and leading with some well thought out questions?

​What are the probabilities for asking that new but very happy client to be a reference?

​What are the probabilities for doing something different and fun to distinguish ourselves in that finalist meeting?

All these scenarios feel risky in the moment, but likely have very positive outcomes.

And when we try them, we’ll grow, improving our BD skills along the way.

That’s a big deal.

​Get rid or your absolutes.

​Think in probabilities to get the facts on the table.

Probabilities drive the best decision.

What's Worth Revisiting

We're continuing to create amazing podcast content!

​If you've ever thought about starting or improving on your email newsletter, check out this amazing interview with ConvertKit CEO, Nathan Barry. Nathan is a genius.

​If you've ever wondered how to structure a conversation with a potential strategic partner, check out Dr Ivan Misner's GAINS Exchange model here. Fantastic!

And one of our best everthis one with Dan Pink from last summer. We mash up his books To Sell Is Human and When with The Snowball System. So good.

What's Worth Lingering On

I’m so happy I was trained as an actuary.

​(Chalk that line up in the ”things you don’t read often” column.)

It taught me so many things, especially these three.

​One thing I learned was thinking in probabilities, not absolutes.

​Take a moment right now and list the big decisions you’ve got rattling around inside your head.

What negative absolutes have you been associating with these actions?

What are the probabilities of the major outcomes?

Get the facts on the table.

​Think in probabilities, not absolutes.

Let's go!

​Mo