• Sahil Khanna

10 Forms of Bias to Avoid in GTM Interviews

Updated: Dec 18, 2019

We all like to think that we’re rational people. We want to believe that our decision-making process is logical and objective. The truth is, we all inherently have biases that influence the way we think and behave.

Successfully building, marketing, selling, and delivering products requires deeply understanding and empathizing with our target audience. But truly understanding the lives of our target audience isn’t easy when they belong to complex and rapidly evolving enterprise spaces like DevOps & Cybersecurity, saturated with 1000’s of products.

Connecting with enterprise technology practitioners for in-depth interviews generates custom intelligence to fuel your Go-to-Market strategy. But as interviewers, we need to have an awareness of the possible biases, including our own, that can affect the quality of intelligence we extract.

As our industry likes to say, "Garbage In, Garbage Out."

After observing 100’s of interviews between Sagetap clients and enterprise tech practitioners, we’ve narrowed in on the top 10 forms of bias that affect the quality of knowledge-exchange for GTM.

Biases of Technology Practitioners

1. Curse of Knowledge

What is it like not to know what you already know? Personally, I don’t know..

Enterprise tech practitioners with in-depth knowledge of a particular subject also have a hard time imagining not having that knowledge. You might find them skipping over foundational information that’s valuable to the interviewer because they assume those details are mutually understood.

Interviewers need to call out their level of expertise on the topics of focus upfront to set expectations. Interviewers also need to break up big and complex topics into multiple granular questions to iteratively walk through their entire thought process.

2. Sponsor Bias

A tech practitioner’s answers to specific questions may vary depending on who’s asking. Fear-of Being-Sold-To is real. It’s natural to withhold information and emotion when speaking to anyone employed by a company that has an interest in selling to yours, which is why Blind or Double-Blind interviews yield such powerful results.

With Blind & Double-Blind options, along with a strict non-solicitation policy, Sagetap interviews avoid this problem.

3. Choice Supportive Bias

People don’t appreciate it when their baby is called ugly. Tech practitioners don’t appreciate criticism toward the tech stacks they’ve assembled, despite potential flaws. It’s common to hear more positive vs. negative sentiment toward products when speaking with a champion for that product.

We need to have the right expectations going into a conversation with a champion, influencer, or decision-maker - but also to phrase questions in a way that asks for the downsides of a product (or decision) without pointing fingers. For example, “If you could go back in time, what would you have done differently?”

4. Availability heuristic

People often make decisions based on information that’s easier to remember. Availability Heuristic is frequently complemented by ‘Negativity Bias,’ where more emphasis is given to negative experiences than positive ones. For example, a tech practitioner may have an easier time recalling the flaws of a product over the strengths, because perhaps a minor flaw indirectly led to a major service outage that consumed her entire weekend. She might then give excessively negative feedback, compared to if she thought about the strengths of the product in-depth.

We yield better results by asking questions that refresh one’s memory around all aspects of a product and the journey with that product. In some cases, we encourage our clients to share questions ahead of time so that we can prepare the ‘expert.’

5. Bandwagon Effect

An organization is much more likely to adopt a methodology, culture, or product if it is also being adopted and evangelized by other organizations. If your interest is understanding the thought process behind why something was adopted, it’s essential to drill down into the organization’s decision-making progress to uncover whether the decision was more active vs. passive.

With large transactions, there’s almost certainly a degree of politics involved, and jumping on the bandwagon is a form of protection.

Biases of Interviewers

6. Empathy Gap

You have to admit, it’s annoying when someone suggests a solution when they don’t understand your problems.

To be fair, it’s challenging to get inside the heads of people like enterprise Cloud Architects, SRE’s, or Application Security Engineers when you haven’t held those roles yourself recently - or ever!! We make assumptions as outsiders but need to make an effort to understand their personal pains, preferences, priorities, and perspectives (just to name a few P’s) if we’re going to suggest that we have a solution that will make their lives better.

Closing the empathy gap is a serious art form and is easier said than done.

7. Halo Effect

Ever notice how really good looking people tend to have such great ideas? Well, IT folk with sexy titles at FAANG companies have the BEST IDEAS!

In all seriousness, company names and individual titles are misleading in this industry. Brilliant people gravitate towards enterprise IT orgs, new and old, that align with their passions. There's no doubt that transformation efforts within legacy organizations often require top-tier talent to pull off.

The good news is that Sagetap customers can request the best of both worlds :)

8. Conservatism Bias

After working in an industry for a few years, we develop hard-coded beliefs based on our experiences. It’s common for us to believe prior information more than new information that challenges our existing assumptions. This mindset makes sense in today’s world of viral fake news, but in a space like enterprise software, those unexpected pieces of new information from expert tech practitioners could be indicative of emerging concepts and trends. These golden nuggets might be the competitive edge your organization needs, and it’s crucial to seek them out vs. dismiss them.

9. Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias is well known, but still so prevalent in market research. We have such strong convictions about our ideas and tend to seek information that confirms the validity of those ideas. As opposed to truly studying the market, interviews with tech practitioners are sometimes misused to justify making the decision(s) that you already planned on making.

This bias can manifest itself in how we ask specific questions to elicit desired responses (leading questions), and even in the information we choose to capture vs. discard.

10. Question-Order Bias

The order in which we ask questions in an interview can influence the answers. Certain topics are likely to evoke stronger emotional responses and lead to more extreme, or polarizing, feelings as subsequent questions are asked.

As an example, the first two questions below are likely to influence the response to the third question:

  • What was the most painful part of deploying Product X?

  • What functionality does Product X not address well?

  • How likely are you to recommend Product X to a friend?

Instead, interviewers should begin conversations with neutral and open-ended questions and then dive into more specific questions to minimize your influence on their thought process.

How to get started with GTM Interviews

Technology vendors, big and small, come to Sagetap to continuously perfect their GTM.

Instead of spending the time and resources to get in front of enterprise tech practitioners, they partner with Sagetap to participate in deep-dive conversations with the absolute best, at speed and scale.

Want to learn more? Schedule a time to speak with the team to learn about what it's like to partner with us.


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