What do you see in this picture? It’s a very famous–some people see an old woman, others see a young woman. Some of you may just be able to see one image, you’ll have to ask me for clues for the other.
Even though I knew there were two different images in this picture, it took me a long time to “find” the old woman (tells you where my mind is at). However hard I stared at the picture, however hard I tried to block the image of the younger woman, I really had difficulty finding the older woman.
After a few minutes, I finally had the “aha” moment. After that, it was amazing, I could switch my focus–I could look at the younger woman, then change my focus to look at the older woman–then go back. But I had to train myself to look at things differently and to look at different things.
I think buying and selling is often very much like this picture. We and the customer are looking at the same thing. But what we see is completely different. We may be looking at the younger woman, the customer may just see the older woman. We talk with the customer, we both are looking at the same thing, we are hearing the same thing, but we are really disconnected and talking about something that’s completely different.
Even though we know we are supposed to see things through the “buyer’s eyes,” and understand the customer’s point of view, the harder we look the more difficult it becomes. We stare at the picture, we cover one eye, then the other. We turn it upside down, but all we can see is the “young woman.” As hard as we try, all we see is our solution. We think we are seeing things from the customer’s point of view, but we are just seeing our solution. We are genuinely trying, but we are just blind.
The customer has the same problem, even if they are trying to “see” and understand our solution, all they “see” is the “old woman.” In our best sales form, we try to get them to understand, but they don’t. We get frustrated, they get frustrated, we aren’t connecting.
This problem is not just limited to buyer-seller relationships. Managers-subordinates don’t connect. Sales and marketing don’t connect. We all look at the same things, we all genuinely try to see the other picture, but we just see what we see and not what the other person sees.
It gets more complicated: We may be seeing things differently. To see things differently, we have to be seeing the same thing–but interpreting them differently. Is the young woman pretty? Is she elegant? We are see the same image, but have different points of view or assessments of the same image. At least we can discuss these differences in interpretation and reconcile them.
But the more difficult challenge is when we are looking at different things. We may never recognize it. Until we do, we can never align or connect. We will talk past each other, we frustrate each other, and waste time. All unintentionally, we just don’t recognize we are seeing different things.
And too often, we are unconscious. We may not even recognize there is a different picture. We may not recognize that customer, our manager, and others may be looking at the same thing, but seeing different things. Or we may not care.
To be successful in whatever we do, whether it’s working with a customer to solve a problem, or a manager coaching someone, or trying to align sales and marketing, we have to recognize that we all see things differently and may be seeing different things. Before we can connect, communicate, and make progress, we have to first make sure we’re seeing the same thing. We may see things differently, but we have a basis for understanding the differences and reconciling them.
How do we do this?
Putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes is one approach. We have to understand who they are, their role, what they do, what they value, their attitudes, behaviors, what turns them on, what pisses them off, and so forth. We have to invest in understanding the person. Also, hopefully, they invest in understanding us–but that’s not necessarily their obligation in a buyer/seller relationship.
We have to understand their company, their industry, their role. I have a natural affinity with CEO’s, VP”s of Sales, VP’s of Marketing, and Sales People. I’ve held those jobs. I understand the pressures, the challenges, I can bond with them easily and more easily see what they see–often because I’ve seen similar things.
But I also can connect with VP’s of Engineering and Manufacturing. I can connect with CFO’s. I can connect with Procurement Professionals, even though I’ve never held those jobs. I’ve taken the time to study and learn. I take every opportunity to talk with them, to follow them around and to try to see things through their eyes. It’s not always perfect, but I can more easily see what they see.
Setting Aside Our Own Points Of View is another critical way to see the other person’s picture. Our own point of view prevents us from seeing other’s and other pictures. We have to be able to set our own views aside. We think our products and solutions are the best. We can’t ever imagine someone thinking otherwise. We see things “with an agenda.” Until we set that aside, we’re trapped and blind.
Asking For Help, Asking Them To Show You Their Picture Vividly. It sounds obvious, but we often don’t do it. Truthfully, I needed help to see the “Old woman” in the picture. I was in a meeting and puzzling over the picture. Finally, I asked someone, “Do you see the old lady in the picture?” The person said yes, then started tracing the old woman’s face–here’s her scarf, eyes, nose, chin……. It became obvious.
Yet too often, we don’t take the time to ask someone to describe their picture vividly. We don’t probe and really understand it. We need to take the time, we need to be vulnerable and ask. We need to listen openly and without an agenda.
It’s a very difficult challenge. But we have to recognize it–and that it impacts everyone.
We may be looking at the same picture, but we see different things and we see things differently. Until we recognize and address this, we will never succeed.