Perspective taking is a critical life skill that can serve us well no matter what role we are in.
Perspective taking is also a vital sales skill if we want to develop viable relationships with clients, influence people to consider and buy our offerings, grow sales and lead successful sales careers.
What is Perspective taking?
Perspective taking is the act of viewing a situation, or understanding a concept, from an alternate point-of-view. Perspective taking is the process of temporarily suspending one’s own point-of-view in order to view a situation as someone else might.
This process does not necessitate any form of affinity, compassion, or emotional identification with the other. Therefore, as an other-oriented activity, perspective taking can be used to gain an understanding of a given situation, after which we can determine the most appropriate course of action, whether that be behavioural (e.g. opening a door for someone), verbal (e.g. offering words of comfort) or emotional (e.g. feeling empathy). By first taking the perspective of other people involved in or impacted by a given decision, you can ensure that your actions will be of benefit to them, as well as to yourself.
Irrespective of the potential benefits of perspective taking, many businesses and salespeople find this a challenging task, as they often lead with their own perspectives when taking their offerings to market. They see the world from their perspective only.
Often, salespeople can come away from unsuccessful client meetings blaming the prospect or client for ‘not getting it’, or not seeing the obvious benefits. Yet they themselves have not taken the time to try and understand the perspective of their prospects.
In our daily work at Barrett, whether it is helping sales leaders develop a sales strategy and go-to-market action plan or teaching salespeople how to prospect and sell effectively, we find that many people have trouble getting out of their own world view and into that of their clients. Seeing the world from another person’s perspective when trying to talk about what you do for people can be a real challenge, but one that is not impossible to overcome.
How do we do enhance our perspective taking?
In selling, perspective taking means we need to see the world from our clients’ perspectives, from our competitors’ perspectives, and from the market’s perspective before we can take effective action.
It doesn’t mean we have to agree with their perspectives, however, if we are to have any chance of working with them we have to find common ground to begin a relationship. That means that salespeople need to be able to start with their clients’ perspective first before any viable relationship can begin to flourish and grow.
This means we need to be very effective at asking good questions that give us the other person’s perspective. We then need to practice effective active listening, where we are free of judgement and open to really hearing what is being said, whether or not we agree with what is being said.
Detaching ourselves from our agenda and allowing the client or prospect’s content to land freely in front of us will really help us determine if and how we can work with our clients moving forward. It will give us clues as to what and where to start. It also shows how we may need to influence the selling-buying conversation to help the prospect or client see our or another perspective that offers a better outcome for them. Let’s never forget that a key part of selling is very much about influence and persuasion.
I wrote about theory of mind in the past, which is another concept that explains how people develop effective perspective taking, and always worth a reread to remind us of the benefits of Perspective taking and understanding other people’s views.
So as we enter 2015 may I encourage you to take another look at:
- Your company’s purpose and goals for 2015
- Your marketplace
- Your competitors and their clients
- Your current clients
- Your lapsed clients
- Those prospects who did not buy from you in 2014
See what their perspectives are. Find out how they see the world and work from there. It could be a great way to reconnect with your prospective buyers and get more and better sales rolling in this year.
Remember everybody lives by selling something.
Sue Barrett is the founder and chief executive of Barrett Consulting Group and SalesEssentials.