Perception is a belief or opinion based on how things seem; it’s the way someone thinks or feels about something. For example, prospects are, in general, content with what they have. If you ask them: “if anything, what could be improved”?, They would answer “, we are pretty ok, thank you”. But, with all my respect, that is their perception.
Perceptions are not always accurate, which is why we must sometimes challenge them. In particular, when a customer’s perception gets in the way of informed buying decisions. The common mistake we make in the new way of selling is to focus again on your competitor’s performance. Do not fall into that trap. Instead, help your stakeholders see a different view of their business challenges. If your customer says that they are good, you should have the opinion that things can be better.
Here are THE FIVE FUNDAMENTALS to change your customer’s perception:
1. you are trustworthy
When customers are unsatisfied with their current profitable growth, they will start looking for ideas to change the performance curve. Their first source is not the salesperson but highly likely internal stakeholders, the internet, social media and peer groups. By pushing the customer’s agenda, not yours, you change the customer’s perception of the value you bring. If you could be a fly on the wall of customer’s boardroom meetings, you could hear what challenges they are discussing. These are your next meeting agenda topics. Your role as a Trusted Advisor is to sit on the same side of the table as your stakeholder, so you are both looking at the same issues, challenges or opportunities. That is what customers value.
2. you provide insights
The most effective way to get your stakeholder’s interest is to find new ways to improve their business results. Often management teams are so close to their challenges that they cannot think outside the box. They look through glasses fogged up by orange and red KPI’s. That’s where you come in. You see things they cannot see and you have the knowledge they do not have. You have acquired that knowledge through your experience with other similar customers. You know, for example, how they have handled recent supply chain challenges or how they found additional sources of income. You have ideas on improving margins by identifying where unnecessary cost is made. These are all insights that cannot be found on the internet. Turning your knowledge into insights via stories is a great perception changer.
3. you bring perspective
To convince a customer that they have urgent issues to address, sweet talk by salespeople does not work any longer. Customers want data and information from independent research. Use your sales enablement platform to find relevant industry research. You provide context and a new perspective of what industry and consumer trends mean to their business. This is all helping your stakeholder to see the need of changing. Equip your contacts with the relevant research so they can share this with others in the buying room. Enable them to drive internal change when you are not there. Next meetings will only happen if more stakeholders are changing their perceptions.
4. you are a strategic thinker
In the past we got ourselves stuck in discussions about how we are different from our competitors. The harsh reality is that customers do not see these differences as you do. Trusted Advisors are aware of this and hence they focus on helping customers to advance strategically. their conversations are all about Why should you change? and if so, what solution criteria are important to make the strategic benefit realistic.
5. you put business acumen before sales acumen
The role of value creation requires a new set of skills! You need to have a good general understanding of business principles. You need to understand the language of strategy versus operations. How businesses operate. How businesses make money. And what comes with it to stay ahead of the competition. You need to understand how you can help customers deliver against their budgets and profit targets, while still keeping their staff happy and engaged. You need to be able to show how a change can positively impact a company’s growth and benefit its bottom line. The difference that you make and the ideas you come up with, need to be strategic. Then you will get the customer’s full attention.
Selling with the buyer’s perspective is all about changing the customer’s perception of their current state and what is needed to create a better future state. In this ever-changing world, you can not talk about your products and solutions until you have changed your customer’s perception of themselves and their own world. How powerful is that!
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