Put a Socrates in it: Critical Thinking In Sales

Updated: Sep 30, 2019

Your ability to make consistent, objective and effective decisions could be the difference between winning and losing.

I’d heard of Critical Thinking before, but I have to admit, I didn't quite understand what a Critical Thinker (CT) was and how I could apply CT to my day to day role in sales.

Looking further into it, two things became clearer:

1) I wasn't a natural CT

2) If practiced, CT sounded like a powerful skill for both your personal and business life.

What is it?

Since then, I’ve read dozens of articles on CT and each one slightly varies the definition to fit their hypothesis. Even The Foundation For Critical Thinking struggles to provide a succinct definition.

Then, I came across the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that stated:

"CT is careful thinking directed to any goal". I liked this…

To me, CT is challenging yours and others’ beliefs and thought process, centered around not accepting information at face value, but asking questions to better understand it and its source.

Socrates was a great CT

"Thinking is not driven by answers but by questions”

Socrates sounds like the guy you dodge at a party. 2,500 years ago he discovered by a method of probing questioning that people couldn’t justify their confident claims to knowledge rationally.

The ‘Socratic Method' of questioning plays an important part in CT. The Foundation for Critical Thinking points out that CT is a way of thought to uncover meaning and truth, however the Socratic Method is an essential way to pose questions to uncover them.

Why is Critical Thinking Important?

In a world of free flowing 'information' and the Trumpism of 'Fake News,' Critical Thinking is an essential and relevant skill to have in 2019. Especially as we believe what we hear most of the time…

You: What?

Me: … Let me explain.

There are three types of belief:

Perceptual - You believe something because you perceive it to be true in the world. You believe the sky is blue, because that's your perception of it.

Inferential - Beliefs that are figured out. If you shout hello in a room and no one answers, you’ll believe the room is empty.

Testimonial - This is the type of belief challenged through CT. We believe something because someone told us it was true. Not because it was a fact, but because someone said it happened. Why is this relevant?

According to Journolink, “at its peak, there were around 200 million monthly engagements with fake news stories on Facebook.” How much of what you read is untrue or just incorrect?

Quickly, adopt the ethos of CT!

Personally, through applying CT, you will learn to question everything you read - the news scare stories or the propaganda (on any side of the political fence).

Consider this line of thought in business; it can provide guidelines to uncover the root of problems and create a healthy dynamic conversation (internally or with a client).

A CT, doesn't just accept statements that are made, but questions the ‘facts’ and their sources and challenges them.

You’ll will be surprised how often you just accept statements from your colleagues, clients and prospects as true.

How to apply CT in Sales

When you’re gathering insights from a Prospect, you won’t leave the room until you've understood - amongst other things - what’s truly important to them and what their objections might be.

Becoming a CT whizz kid could be the key to truly uncovering what must be within your solution or what could be throwing you off course.

The dynamic between a Prospect and salesperson comes with a professional power struggle and a formality that can lead to tactical game play and veiled responses. A Prospect’s first answer could be opaque, clouded.

"Cost is most important, Quality is my objective, Service Universality is key!"

Great, but that won’t give you the insight to stand out from your competitors.

Come on, send in Super CT. Get your question bucket and your query spade out and watch the answers go from opaque to translucent. Actively listen, dig a little deeper and question generic statements, assumptions and testimonial beliefs for utter transparency.

Don’t know what I mean? I’ve broken the CT path into a decision tree to help navigate this very interaction. Try applying it in your next meeting.

Critical thinking diagram

Download the Image

Give it a go – adopt CT and use the Socratic method. You’ll become more knowledgeable (as a bi-product of challenging information yourself), a truly independent thinker and formidable sales professional.

Don't believe me? FANTASTIC.

Do your own research and move this testimonial belief to a factual one.


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