You’re probably thinking that this is the answer to the “ultimate question about life, the universe and the rest”, although the answer will be different.
In sales – no offence to sales, the above also applies anywhere else – I very often experience an astonishing use of personality profiles based on four colours, for example. After the first meeting with a customer who is still quite unknown, he or she is categorised in one of the categories and treated as a “blue” person from then on.
When preparing for an appointment, I am sometimes introduced to people with these stereotypes and the appointment is arranged on this basis. In practice, this often leads to surprises – it’s just a shame if you’ve missed the mark at a crucial point.
On the other hand, personality profiles – even those with few dimensions – are very well suited as analytical generalisations for strategic and tactical purposes, e.g. used as personas in sales training sessions in which pitches for “reds”, “blues” etc. are developed and practised. In this context, stereotypes simplify the training, as I can work with just a few categories.
Persona in sales training and person as customer should fit somehow, right? But they don’t, because:
– A single person has no definite statistical dependency
– Aggregated personality dimensions provide an aggregated (wrong) focus
– This is an unnecessary source of cognitive bias such as attribution error
The 42 makes it clear. When a shoe retailer buys a new men’s shoe model, he will have most shoes in stock in size 42, as this is the most common shoe size for men. Structuring the stock according to shoe size is certainly very clever. When a customer enters the shop and asks for advice in front of the counter, a good salesperson will certainly not say go to the size 42 shelf.
Please distinguish statistics and groupings very carefully from individuals. When in doubt, the analogy of shoe size helps me to separate the two. If you don’t know anything, sometimes a shoe in 42 has to fit, at least the felt slipper is not fussy when it comes to the castle tour.