Why did they do that?

There are plenty of times when people that you’re dealing with do things that appear (to you) to not make any sense. I would argue that it makes perfect sense to them, given their point of view.

In his book Basic Economics, Thomas Sowell says:

In reality, many of the things that go wrong in these activities are due to perfectly rational actions, given the incentives faced by government officials who run such activities and given the constraints on the amount of knowledge available to any given decision-maker or set of decision-makers.

He then gives an example from the Soviet Union, where the manager of a factory that produced mining equipment kept them in storage, even though there was a severe shortage of this equipment at the time. Turns out that they were supposed to be painted red and he didn’t have any red paint. His fear of disobeying official orders from above (which could mean being sent to the Gulag – a very personal potential consequence for him) far outweighed his concern that “system wasn’t working”. When you look at it from that point of view, what seemed to make no sense makes perfect sense from his point of view.

The same idea applies to purchasing officials in companies that you’re trying to sell to.

Many years ago, I was in an Entrepreneur Accelerator program and the first guest speaker was John Nesheim. He asked the group to go around the table and describe our target customer. All 12 of us answered in terms of a company profile (how much revenue, what industry, etc.) He then pointed out that every check that we ever received was going to be approved and signed by a person (not a company), and said – “that’s your customer”.

In the movie Trading Places, Eddie Murphy’s character is a homeless man that 2 billionaire Wall Street tycoons have taken on as a project. Even though they have just taken him in, cleaned him up, and described what they do – he gets this concept immediately. (It’s Eddie Murphy – so there is a little bit of coarse language.)

Whoever said “it’s just business, it’s not personal” missed the point. It’s all personal. Once you realize that you’re dealing with a human, who has pressures, prejudices, priorities and a point of view different than yours – a lot more things will make sense.