Ask questions to establish fact from assumption

Even if he has just seen three patients in succession before you, displaying the same symptoms as you, a doctor will not infer the same diagnosis for you.

Inference is a conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning. Fact is a thing that is known or proved to be true. Consider the sentence, ‘Oduor, a salesman with LMYE, was scheduled for a 9 o’clock meeting in Kamau’s office to discuss terms of a large order.’ On the surface, you can reason that two men will be meeting-that’s inference. Fact, doesn’t assume, but instead asks questions and listens keenly. Because fact knows that the speaker could be referring to a Ms. Kamau who likes being called by her father’s name.

Inferring breeds untold friction between buyer and seller. The buyer says one thing and the seller infers another. And it’s because we are wired to draw conclusions based on our beliefs and life’s experiences. Alas!, the successful seller must go against this natural flow by remaining intelligently stupid; and he does this by asking questions and seeking clarity as he goes along, ensuring that there is mutual understanding of what the buyer is saying. A lift-selling client of mine tells of how a buyer once asked , in Kiswahili, for ~dirishainaona’ nje”,(a window ‘that sees’ outside)”. When the lift arrived it turned out  that he wanted a see through mirror. Given their lifts are imported with a lead time of six weeks, and are custom made, it was a costly inference. Pointing to the contract as defence does little to appease the buyer.

Being intelligently stupid is not easy. It is being deliberately stupid without looking so, while oozing contagious curiosity. Notice how, for all his intelligence, a doctor does not pretend to know what you are ailing from but instead seeks to understand through insightful questions. Even if he has just seen three patients in succession before you, displaying the same symptoms as you, he will not infer the same diagnosis for you. He may (silently) infer the prognosis based on the previous three patients but he won’t act on it unless he has established fact. However, inference may lead him to ask insightful questions informed by the previous three interactions. Questions like, “Have you left the country lately?” (Notice, it’s not pointed but general. He didn’t ask, “Have you been to Juba lately?”, assuming that’s where the other three contracted the bug). The informed inference helps him arrive at fact faster. And the fact could be, identical prognosis, and therefore diagnosis, as the other three; or, identical prognosis, but different diagnosis (because you answered ‘yes’ to the question, “Are you allergic to amoxicillin?”; or, similar prognosis but different diagnosis. And, if you thought identical and similar are the same, you have inferred that. Factually, they are not.

Remain intelligently stupid to thrive in selling. Establish fact from inference through insightful questions before drawing a diagnosis. Assume you don’t know because you don’t. For instance, is it fact or inference that Oduor could be meeting Kamau at 9 o’clock in the morning?

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