Still Selling From Your Perspective

Open up new possibilities through challenging ideas and giving customers reasons to change their minds when they see persuasive reasons to do so.

Adapted from the Book,
Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies
by Kylene Beers and Robert E Probst, October 2015

We typically think through the lens of allowing customers to enter our world and we tell them something about it to lure them in. When they enter our world we try to make it meaningful to us, such as segmenting them into our product flows. We have a better opportunity when taking the perspective that customers aren’t guests in our world; we are guests in theirs. We must also remind ourselves that the customer/prospect is somewhat skeptical of us intruding into their world. This requires us to develop content for their world with a questioning stance, one that says why do they care? 

Relevance is the foundation, the necessary element, for any content to be read/viewed. It’s irrelevant when one has no interest in it. We often made the mistake of confusing relevance with interest and often work hard to make content interesting.  “Wow! That’s interesting.” Then as soon as that moment has passed, the excitement is gone. Interest and relevance are different. Interest is about something out there in the world. Relevance is about what matters to you. It starts by observing something in the world but shifts to a thought or a feeling inside of you. Something that is relevant is inherently interesting, but something that is interesting isn’t always relevant. Getting someone’s attention is about creating interest; keeping their attention is all about relevance.

If rigor is important in our attention, it may be even more vital in our sales and marketing approach. Customers want to be entertained. However, for them to engage, they must put energy into it. If the information is confusing or not directly relevant, they won’t be struggling with the issues, concepts, or ideas. If the content resonates with customers, they find themselves thinking very seriously (rigorously) about the issues it raises. If they don’t, the only consequence is likely to be that they will have missed an opportunity. And so what, the world will go on. Back to rigor, it is important, but we don’t get to rigor solely by increasing the amount of information. We get to rigor by increasing interactions with content that is valued. And as those value-based interactions develop, then we have the opportunity and responsibility to place before our customers increasingly more information, trials, applications and more value.

Reviewing with questions in mind encourages a stance that reminds the customer that we are intruding into their lives and their job is to decide if that intrusion is welcome or not. Our information may be perfectly true, it may be biased, or it may be flat-out lies. Creating a questioning stance implies three questions from a customer point of view.:

  1. What surprised me?
  2. What did they (vendor/supplier) think I already knew?
  3. What changed, challenged, or confirmed what I already knew?

First, we want the customer to adopt a stance that suggests they expect the application to offer something that’s surprising. When customers approach with a closed mindset, saying to themselves; “this will be boring” or “there’s nothing new here for me,” they are more likely to finish with those same thoughts. But if, for a moment, they are willing to look for something surprising, then sometimes they will find it. But if customers search for the new—the information they didn’t know before that moment, the line of reasoning they hadn’t thought of  that reconfirms an idea they already held, or the evidence that requires them to reconsider and possibly reject a belief that they had, until this moment, strongly held—then they will be able to engage in the information or application. This stance is critical, and therefore “What surprised you?” is the first question we should ask them to use. So, what are the surprises:

  • New information (“I didn’t know that!”)
  • Suspicious information (“Really? Is that true?”)
  • Clarifying information (“Oh! Now I get it!”)
  • A different perspective (“I hadn’t thought of it that way” or “How could anyone think that way?” or “This surprises me. Is there another way to see this?”)

Second, we want customers to read expecting that when they find themselves confused, they can solve the problem. Too often, at the first moment of confusion, customers look at us and declare, “I don’t get it,” and we—being the fixers we all are—rush to explain what it is they don t get. That solves the problem for that instance, but it doesn’t help the customer with the next confusion. Instead, we want to empower customers to identify the confusion and then set about solving it.  So we ask customers when they are confused to pinpoint the confusion and ask themselves, What Did They Think I Already Knew? When we ask customers to figure out what we thought they already knew, they can define the prior knowledge they need to acquire. When we let customers identify* what’s missing, they consider confusing parts in the content/application through a new lens. Rather than simply looking at something and stating, “I don’t get it,” they almost always identify what it is they need to do to clear it up. They begin to identify solutions or sight in how they can make it work.

Third, we want customers to expect that something will challenge, change, or confirm what they already knew. If we are going to come knocking on the door, then once we have intruded, something ought to happen. Something they know should be challenged, changed, or confirmed. We may not completely confirm or drastically change their thinking; it may merely modify it somewhat, sharpening or refining their understanding. Their understanding of the problem should be somewhat sharper than it had been. This may make some customers and even us uncomfortable by asking that they think rather than extract information. And it is important for the messages it conveys. This question doesn’t capture responses as for right or wrong. It says in a slightly subtle way, that changing their mind is perfectly respectable and that, in fact, it ought to happen occasionally, perhaps even often. It respects the customer response by asking them to consider how the information/application has shaped their thinking. And it equips them with observations that should create subsequent dialogue. It involves roughly three points:

  1. We read content, try applications (emails, pdf, free trials) to learn something.
  2. Learning involves changing the way we think about an issue or an idea.
  3. We can change in several ways. We can:
    • Confirm what we already thought
    • Modify our thinking
    • Change our minds completely

Signposts alert us to some significant moments. Those moments in which a customer needs to think critically about the claims we make. An example of signposts:

  • Contrasts and Contradictions: We present something that contrasts with or contradicts what the customer is likely to know, think, or have experienced, or shows a difference between two or more situations, events, or perspectives.
  • Extreme or Absolute Language: We use language that leaves no doubt about a situation or event, that perhaps exaggerates or overstates a case.
  • Numbers and Stats: We uses numbers (2 or two) or words (a lot, few) that show amounts or statistical information to show comparisons to prove a point or help create an image.
  • Quoted Words: We quote others, directly, with what we call a Voice of Authority or a Personal Perspective. We might also list others in citations.
  • Identify Gaps: We demonstrate a relevant difference of position.

An anchor question is a question we want customers to ask themselves when they notice a particular signpost. In other words, we’re trying to encourage customers to do more than notice a signpost and then move on. This is not a hunt, and it’s certainly not a way to gain likes, a vanity metric. We’d rather customers notice one or two signposts and think deeply about what we are revealing through those signposts than “like” and just keep on reading.

Strategies are scaffolds/practices that make the invisible thinking processes visible. If strategies are what makes thinking visible, they aren’t the signposts we just discussed in the previous section. It is the thinking that tactics define strategies. This new thinking opens a new space outside of demographics and psychographics and segmentation. It is replaced with a perspective that is driven by actions and tactics.

With tactics in the driver’s seat, everything changes: long-term vs. short-term becomes meaningless; prediction is still possible as an activity, but probably futile in its results; action beats analyzing-, correctable replaces dependable. The one thing that we know is that it’s in the learning rather than the deciding.  The Death of Strategy – Forbes.com

Adapted from the Book,
Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies
by Kylene Beers and Robert E Probst, October 2015

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