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The Dress Phenomenon and the Color of Sales Perception

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You’ve likely heard the recent story or have seen the pictures of the now infamous dress. One snapshot and the debate began, is it white and gold or blue and black? Science chimed in and explained that we potentially see things differently based on the way that our minds filter images and light.

But what does this have to do with sales and perception? Quite a bit, actually. The challenge for consultative sales professionals is twofold. The first challenge is seeing the perceived situation through the customer’s lens. The second is framing a solution that is perceived to align with that individual’s picture of their present state of affairs versus desired state. The risk of misalignment is significant throughout the sales process, especially if the client themselves are looking through a distorted or cloudy lens which is often the case when clients don’t fully recognize the potential need.

Why is it that regarding their product knowledge, some of the brightest and most technically astute people cannot sell? We know that if sales professionals concentrate strictly on product knowledge and the technical factors regarding their solutions, they risk missing the filters each client applies – or the “color” in which the customer perceives the solution. Just as individuals may see colors differently based on the way the mind filters light, individuals also use filters when making business decisions. If you ignore or fail to recognize these filters, your chance of connecting with the client plummets. Luckily, we can identify the most significant filters that clients use when making decisions, and, if applied correctly, the chances of “firing on all cylinders” with the client increases substantially.

The Sales Equation – Consider this example, which displays some of the most common filters used in making sales and business decisions. In this example, if the salesperson relies solely on the “story”, which includes their product knowledge and expertise, they have a 1 in 64 chance of completely connecting with the customer. (4 behavioral styles x 4 communication styles x 4 convincer strategies). If they correctly identify and appeal to each filter, then they totally connect both in terms of understanding the customer’s picture and providing a solution that matches. If you miss just one filter, at best the message is mixed and at worst it is completely wrong.
 

You Can’t Force Another Person to Filter Messages the Way that You Do!

This explains why salespeople lose opportunities even when the client situation and your solution looks identical to another that a different client may have fully embraced. To top it off, without the knowledge and experience to recognize these filters, salespeople default to their own filters when presenting their solutions to customers, which is taking a gamble that each customer will use the same filters as they do when making decisions.

In the example of the “dress”, you can’t control how your brain sees it and that is why some people cannot see the dress in blue/black and others cannot see the dress in white and gold. Hence the debate. If Joe sees it as “A” and Mary sees it as “B”, Joe and Mary may NEVER agree on the color of the dress because their perception is polar opposite.

The same is true with sales filters. You can’t force someone to see through your filters or the same set of filters that you are using. You can, however, recognize the filters and adjust your approach to the customer’s lens.

The Filters

The filters presented in this example are absolutely key and foundational to implementing a consultative sales strategy and interaction that is impactful for each client and situation. There even more filters that you could consider, accelerating the risk of not connecting. To apply specific filters for your customer base, we could apply additional psychological factors to the mix such as behavioral economics, generational considerations, financial aspects and other key indicators that you would glean from accurate market research data regarding how your clients buy from you. This example also assumes that the salesperson knows their product information, industry knowledge and can navigate their internal customers, or you could also consider that another variable in the equation, again adding risk.

To do justice to each of the filters represented in this example, it will require separate blog articles. Here is an overview for your consideration:

Behavioral Styles – Refers to the logic that people use when making decisions. There are four core behavioral styles. In our Consultative Sales Certification program we refer to these as Director, Expressive, Steady and Analytical. While we are a mix of all four styles, we have a tendency to be dominant in one or two. That dominance significantly impacts the way that we make decisions and are influenced. Sales people need to first recognize the dominant style in their customers and adjust the approach that they use to influence them accordingly. For instance some of the factors that Directors are influenced by include accomplishments, results and getting things done. Some of the ways that Expressive people are influenced are by emotion, visibility, color and trends. Steady people tend to be influenced by the opinions of others that they respect, team members, reliability and performance. And, Analytical people tend to think systematically and are influenced through process, proven quality, research and making what are good decisions in their mind.

Communication Styles – This is the vehicle that we use to send and receive information. We process information using our senses, specifically sight, sound and touch. (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic and Cerebral.) While we all use each of these senses, we have a preference as it pertains to communication. Without previous training, most people aren’t even aware of their preferences. Once you recognize the communication style preference that the customer uses, you can, and should, adjust how you communicate with them. If salespeople do not adjust to communication preferences, you are at significant risk of the intended message being garbled.

Convincer Strategies – These are the specific triggers or sorting patterns that tend to influence each individual. This explains why some people are more loyal, why some customers need constant change and some customers are in the middle. We refer to core convincer strategies as matcher and mismatchers with exceptions being the largest population. Knowing this information tells you who you need to present changes to or be at risk of losing them, who will be first adopters to new ideas and which customers you need to present similarities to in terms of solutions they may be considering. Convincer strategies also deals with the order in which you need to present solutions to be effective in influencing a decision.

 

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