Are Buyer Perceptions What You Think They Are?

Tony Zambito

Tony Zambito

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Perception / Percepción
Perception / Percepción (Photo credit: victor_nuno)

The business world is filled with proclamations.  Usually these proclamations have to do with how businesses describe themselves.  The word “leading” is often used.  You have seen many of them.  Companies often describe themselves as the “leading provider” of something.  Do buyers see them in the same way?

Going To Market

Going to market today is a harder than ever before.  Plenty of time, resources, and energy are spent to devise strategies, game plans, and tactics to win in the marketplace.  If we were to do a reflective look back on why some succeeded or failed in their efforts, buyer perceptions would be a part of the findings.  Oftentimes, research found companies went to market based on what they thought, not what buyers were thinking.

Overall marketing and sales effectiveness can hinge on buyer perceptions.  If the starting point is an incorrect and assumptive perception, all the time, resources, and energy will not matter.  Efforts can be doomed from the start.  Here is a case in point:

A technology company I consulted with believed wholesale changes were needed in their sales force.  Since products and services were becoming more sophisticated, they believed sales engineers could supply the level of expertise needed while they would hire more “hunters” versus “farmers” to accelerate growth.  This backfired.  In a two-year period, sales plummeted.  Why?  Because buyers had a perception of the existing sales force as smart and being expert advisors.  Which, translated into their overall perception into why they chose to do business with this technology firm.  The new moves created a perception of abandonment and a perception the company’s competitors cared more. 

Hard Lessons

As you can see, the company committed to a shift in their go-to-market strategy and approach.  Keep in mind, while content and inbound marketing has grown, there are still many technology industries highly reliant on face-to-face interaction.  This situation being one of them.  This organization learned valuable lessons the hard way.  Here are three:

Invest in Knowing Your Buyer Perceptions

Knowing what your customers and prospect buyers think of your company is becoming not just critical but a lifeline to survival today.  Companies will need to invest in using outside help and resources to learn what, how, and why their customers and prospects have developed certain perceptions.  With buyer behavior changing rapidly, buyer perceptions are subject to major shifts within shorter time periods.

Understand Comparisons To Competitors

I have seen many go-to-market strategies based on the faulty assumption of superiority over competitors.  Internal thinking about how products or services are superior over competitors may be true.  However, it matters little if buyer perceptions are of the contrary.  Insights about the perceptions buyers have of your company, compared to competitors, can be revealing about how you currently stack up.  With technology being the great equalizer, competitors may be small but in the eyes of your competitors – they may be big.

Understand Brand Perceptions

On a personal level, we have all heard a description of someone we know.  And, we usually respond by saying he or she is nowhere near like that!  It happens in business too. Customers and prospect buyers can develop perceptions about the characteristics and attributes of brands, which bear little resemblance to reality.  There are many reasons why it can happen.  The important thing to know is if it did happen.  Brand perception can shift overtime or almost instantaneously depending on external events.  For example, brand perception is quite volatile in the financial and energy sectors right now.  They cannot be ignored or swept under the rug.

To acquire understanding in these three areas of buyer perceptions, companies can do so with buyer insight research.  Buyer insight research can provide the unbiased and objective means for acquiring the insights you need about buyer perceptions.  Utilizing a technique associated with buyer mental modeling, which is the interpretation of insights on attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions.  Revealing the crucial link to how buyers truly think.

Not knowing what your buyers think, how they think, and why they have formed the perceptions they have can put an organization at a significant disadvantage.  Even worse, if left unheeded, inaccurate perceptions become so entrenched – they transform into entrenched reality.  In which, a company can find itself battling to shift so it may survive.

(Schedule time with me and a conversation to help you understand how your buyers think.  I am very interested in getting your thoughts and perspectives on how buyer perceptions may be shifting.  Please share widely – your peers and colleagues are wondering what their buyers are thinking.)

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2 thoughts on “Are Buyer Perceptions What You Think They Are?”

  1. Absolutely agree with your thoughts on buyers persona and perception, often marketing and sales strategies only look at competitive studies and reports , hiring hunters in the hope meeting business objectives.

    1. Thanks Sonal for commenting. Exactly right – most organization only look at reports and quantitative data. Missing perhaps the most important element of buyers – what do they think.


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