I was recently reminded of the elephant parable. Some version of this story has been told across different cultures for hundreds of years. This is how author/podcaster Tim Ferriss described it on one of his recent blog posts:
“It is a story of a group of blind men, who have never come across an elephant before and who learn and conceptualize what the elephant is like by touching it. Each blind man feels a different part of the elephant’s body, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then describe the elephant based on their limited experience, and their descriptions of the elephant are different from each other. In some versions, they come to suspect that the other person is dishonest, and they come to blows. The moral of the parable is that humans have a tendency to claim absolute truth based on their limited, subjective experience as they ignore other people’s limited, subjective experiences which may be equally true.”
In other words, perspective matters. Your brain interprets everything within the boundaries of its own and unique perspective. While absolute truth may exist, most of us see only a portion of that truth, and taint it with our experience colored lens. As the old joke goes: For most people, the sinking of the Titanic was a catastrophe, but for the live lobsters in the kitchen it was a flipping miracle!
Are you using your process to understand your client’s perspective?
A few years ago I was on a sales call with one of my reps. We both could see the absolute pain that our prospect was in around several issues that we could easily help with. This involved a commercial landscaping bid on their property. As clearly as we could see the problem, the prospect was not showing any buying signals. We did what all sales pros do when hitting an obstacle, we started asking more questions. What we discovered is that this prospect had a concern around some of the trees and their limbs hanging over his parking lot. While the trees created a smaller liability issue than some of the other things we were pointing out,, from HIS PERSPECTIVE, the trees were a more pressing issue.
It would be easy to dismiss this as irrational, illogical and untrue, if we failed to consider that we might not have all the information. Fo example, if his job was at risk over the tree issue, than his perspective was the only one that really mattered.
As we figured this out, we altered our proposal to prioritize the handling of the trees. We aligned our perspective with his perspective and won the business.
Sales isn’t about what you tell them, it is about what you get them to tell you. Focus on discovering their perspective.