I have made hundreds of customer presentations over the course of my career. A few months ago, I was involved in one that did not go well.
Typically, our team has a reasonable amount of time to gather available information and develop a presentation that will best align with the customer’s expectations. When we don’t have adequate preparation time, we begin to make assumptions. This usually produces a presentation based upon our perceptions and individual perspectives, which is what happened in this instance.
We later learned the assumptions we made were incorrect. This gave the customer the perception and perspective that we lacked the experience and knowledge to deliver the services they needed. It took a long discussion post-presentation to convince them otherwise.
Relying upon perceptions and perspectives to make business decisions is dangerous. There’s a big difference between reality and perceptions. The late comedian George Carlin said: “Some see the glass half full. Some see it half empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.” While meant to be cynical, this comedic quip provides excellent insight into how perceptions and perspectives often result in a lack of alignment between parties.
Unfortunately, all of us are inclined to make decisions based on our perceptions and perspectives. It’s important to avoid making an impulse decision which requires nothing more than going with whatever perception is circling within us at that moment. It also precludes us from recognizing there may be other perspectives beyond our consideration. This results in two common problems.
The first problem is that our assumptions are often wrong. By assuming that we understand what the other party wants or needs, we infer that we know what is best for them and their business. In turn, we develop solutions to their problems and answers their questions without knowing their actual issues or questions.
The correct course of action is to make a concerted effort to clearly understand the expectations and requirements of the other party. Determining this requires work, time and resources. More importantly, it requires us to push aside our impulses and look objectively at the situation. Do Your Homework.
Second, we assume we fully comprehend the other party’s perceptions and perspectives. We assign them a base of knowledge, a level of understanding, or a specific opinion. We are convinced they are either a half-full or a half-empty type, never considering they may view the glass from a totally different perspective. While we may actually never fully understand what perspective or perception others may have, it’s critical to realize they do have perspectives and perceptions, and these will influence their decisions and actions.
Whether it’s a sales presentation, a negotiation, or just a collaborative meeting, perspectives and perceptions exist among all parties. They are usually not based upon reality, but on personal intuition, rumors, appearances or other easily developed interpretations. Ultimately, they will have influence. This leaves us with two options. We can choose to play the game of relying upon our perceptions and perspectives, or we can make the effort to determine the facts and the truth among all parties, thus reducing the impact perceptions and perspectives have upon our business decisions.
Brian T. King is the founder of multiple businesses encompassing design, construction, real estate and manufacturing. A well-respected construction industry CEO, Brian enjoys offering guidance to young professionals, rising managers and entrepreneurs on a variety of topics – from personal and professional growth, to work/life balance – through his blog, national podcasts, and speaking engagements around the country.