Perceptions Are Reality
Funny how true this actually is.
I used to work with a guy in sales (who was definitely not a sales Pro) that was always trying to game the system. And, for some reason he felt he had to teach me, the younger newer member of the team, his ways.He would always tell me perception is reality. But, he meant it as a way to get away with fooling people. Even the company we worked for. Needless to say, he left a very negative “perception” of that phrase in my mind. I wanted nothing to do with “perception is reality”, or any of the other tricks he pulled.
Years later I see how true the statement is. For good or bad. How others perceive us is their reality. Our job is to make sure the perception meets reality. That could mean we have to change our behavior for the better, or we need to take action to make sure we are perceived as a valued friend.
I recently unknowingly tested this. I have worn a full beard, or goatee for several years. A couple of months ago I decided to shave, and leave the mustache. I heard the same comment for the next several days at I went about visiting my customers. It was “You grew a mustache, when did you do that” (or why, or I didn’t recognize you). The reality is that the mustache was always there, but part of the beard. I didn’t grow a mustache, but took away the beard. Since they could not see what I had removed, but something was obviously different, they perceived I had grown a mustache.
I grew the beard back, then I shaved completely. Only two people have noticed and said a word.
I was sitting in customers office one day, just visiting with him. I had stopped by unannounced just to say hello. As we were chatting, his phone rang and he took the call. You could tell it the cal was clearly an interruption. He looked at me when he hung up, and commented on how “these salesmen” are always calling and interrupting him. Then he told me how one guy made his way past security and showed up at his office uninvited.
Odd, that is exactly what I had just done. I drove in the employee entrance and walked in unannounced. Yet, I’m sitting at his desk visiting and having a conversation.
The difference is that he no longer perceived me as an interruption to his day. I wasn’t even perceived as a salesman. I was perceived as a trusted advisor, a friend, someone to help solve his equipment problems. Why did he have that perception of me? Because that is what I did. I earned his business by excepting challenges and solving problems all the other equipment salespeople that called on him would not touch. They knew it was a lot of work with no immediate return. I knew I had to provide value now (to help him) to earn the business later. I demonstrated that I cared about him and his business, and I cared about the needs of his business.I’m happy to say this was not the first time, nor has it been the last time, this has happened to me.
I believe that other’s perception of me changed when I decided to change. Rather than selling to earn a check, I began looking for ways to serve my customers and prospects. I offered to help, and to provide service, with no strings attached. This also changed my perception of myself. I began to view me as someone who deserved to make the call and see the decision maker because I was looking out for their best interests. My new perception of me also gave me a huge confidence boost. I learned that to be perceived as a person of value by others, I had to perceive myself as a person of value first. I had to tell myself a new story and live it.
How do your customers perceive you? Is it reality? More importantly, how do you perceive you?