Mark Twain is credited with many profundities, including a journalistic favorite: “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”
One of the most relevant Twain sayings for marketing and sales, however, relates to a critically important element of any company’s success: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” In the case of prospects (and even, sometimes, customers) their misinformation and misperceptions about your company and products cause your sales cycles to drag on, and often to fail.
The most difficult problem for any salesperson is to try to change someone’s mind. Cognitive research has shown that, even when people are presented with irrefutable evidence contradicting their convictions, they generally do not correct their erroneous beliefs. This can become an intractable problem if a company has not adequately laid the correct marketing groundwork, in order to ensure that the target market accurately understands the company or product position, unique benefits, and differentiated value proposition.
This is exacerbated when people make a decision based on inaccurate information – because unlike the “first impression” principle, once people make a decision, their likelihood of changing the decision is almost nil even in the face of overwhelmingly convincing evidence, due to the principle of cognitive dissonance.
When the right information and messaging is available to the target market early in their research or discovery process, then the individuals involved in decision-making have the opportunity to form judgments based on accurate information, and these are the judgments that will stay with them throughout the buying cycle. Marketing teams should have a laser-focus on ensuring that the company and products have the appropriate positioning (that unique place which the company/product occupies in the target market’s mind relative to the problem that they are trying to solve) and differentiated value proposition (the business driver that is moved/changed by the company/product in a distinctive way.) Without this, the sales teams have the unenviable task of trying to change someone’s mind, in order to convince their company to buy your products or solutions.
How can marketer’s do a better job of this more accurate positioning and differentiated value proposition? By always providing more information and tools for customers to learn about how their business or technical challenges are solved through specific and relevant benefits and capabilities of the company’s solutions – at every customer touch point. Consistently engaging customers in an interactive dialogue (as opposed to passive, or static presentations of generic catch phrases) will result in the target market truly understanding your unique value, because interactivity results in better knowledge retention of key messages.
It is difficult enough to sell products in today’s globally competitive B2B markets, but to add the complexity of having to correct the target market’s misperceptions is an unnecessary and expensive burden; one that the sales teams should not have to bear.