It was Alan Kay who said “Perspective is worth 80 IQ points”. I was reminded of that recently when I was discussing with a customer their sales strategy for a new product launch. The sales leader with whom I was meeting was expressing his frustration with both his software team who were charged with developing the product, and the product marketing team whose task it was to create the necessary sales material. As he paced back and forth, he vented.
“I don’t understand why we can’t get all of the features that the competitor has!”
“I can’t see any reason why marketing can’t just give us what we need. It can’t be that hard.”
“I’m the one who has to sell this *&^$£@ thing. Don’t they get it?”
“It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Now, I understand that sales is hard. And, I’d never be classified as an apologist for marketing or product development, but usually, when you start a sentence with ‘I just don’t understand why …’, it’s usually just that – you don’t understand. And, more often than not, it’s worth taking the time to try to get the picture as others have painted it. Arrogance is usually bred from ignorance, and that’s never pretty or productive.
Sometimes it’s just all about perspective. Perspective is at the heart of communication. It’s not just important, it’s essential. In sales it’s the lifeblood of customer interaction and helps you to gain support within your own company. Without perspective there is always a breakdown in understanding, and when that happens, tremendous friction occurs and sales or organizational velocity suffers.
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In 2004, I wrote a book called Select Selling – Strategies to Win Customers by Defining the Ultimate Target Profile and Discovering what they Really Want. The opening two paragraphs of that book went like this:
There are few distinct viewpoints in business that are as polarized as those of marketing and sales professionals. Marketing is glamorous, sales less so. Sales are measurable, marketing less so. The uneasy relationship between sales and marketing is widespread and infects almost all types of businesses, particularly technology companies that provide high value solutions to large corporations. Marketing folks decry the poor sales conversion rate delivered by the sales team, who in turn abhor what they would characterize as the risible value delivered by expensive marketing campaigns.
During the production of this book, we interviewed many sales and marketing professionals. The polarity of perspective was striking. “Sales people are just quick-talking, quota-driven snake oil dealers” was the cant of the marketing quarter, while the sales constituency responded, “Sales draw the picture and marketing color it in!”
The truth of course is that mutual respect and understanding, and a shared perspective, between the sales function and their inter-dependent colleagues in marketing and product development is essential if you want to be sure you have the right products to sell, the right marketing messages to communicate with your customer, and ability to call on specialist marketing or product expertise or support when you need it. When that happens, uncommon velocity occurs, and more deals are won faster – and that’s a good thing.
Remember Alan Kay’s advice. Perspective is worth 80 IQ points. You can get smarter by just thinking about it.