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Sales Psychology – The Theory of Mind

July 25, 2013 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Life Skills, Mindful selling, Sales Psychology, Sales Relationships

When we interact and work with people (customers, colleagues, managers, friends, family, etc.) it is important to be able to interpret and understand where the other person is coming from – their perspective, especially if we want to continue interacting and working with them in a manner that is beneficial to both parties.

Interpreting and understanding where another person is coming from does not automatically imply that we agree with their perspective.  We may not agree. However, we at least know where they stand, what their perspective is, how they see the world. Ideally, the other person would respond in kind but that is not always the case.  It is critical to our survival that we understand that others might see things differently to ourselves.

This is about Theory of Mind.

customer-relationshipImagine that you are conducting a test with preschool children:

  1. You get a tube of M&M’s and take out the chocolate and put in coloured pencils.
  2. You then ask the child what they think is in the tube (they haven’t seen you take out the chocolate and put in the pencils) and they would (if they know what M&M’s are) say that they think there is chocolate in the tube.
  3. You then show them that there isn’t chocolate, but pencils in the tube.
  4. You ask them: ‘if your best friend (name) walked through the door and saw the tube, what would he/she think was in the tube?’
  5. If the child says pencils, the test is failed. If the child says chocolate the test is positive.

What is being tested here is if the child has developed Theory of Mind or not.

Theory of Mind is the ability to interpret and understand another person’s mind and see their perspective. Successful sales / business professionals have Theory of Mind.

Theory of Mind is a theory insofar as the mind of a person is not directly observable. Therefore one has to make the presumption that others have a mind because each human being can only intuit the existence of their own mind through introspection, and no one has direct access to the mind of another.

Having Theory of Mind allows a person to attribute thoughts, desires and intentions to others, to predict or explain their actions and to posit their intentions.

Empathy is a related concept of Theory of Mind. Empathy means there is recognition and understanding of the different states of mind, including beliefs, desires and particularly emotions of others. It is the ability to “put oneself into another’s shoes”.

empathy-explainedWhat is interesting is that Theory of Mind appears to be an innate potential ability in people, but an ability that requires social and other experiences over many years to bring to cultivate and bring to fruition.  We know that different people may develop more, or less, effective theories of mind.

To be able to accomplish this essential capability successfully is a life time’s work.  It involves the regular practice and coordination of many skills and capabilities including: active listening, questioning, empathy, reflection, analysis, interpretation and association, paraphrasing, innovating, challenging ideas, assertiveness, diplomacy, etc.  These capabilities, in themselves, can and need to be crafted over many years as a part of our sales / business and people resources if we are to master our roles as sales professionals and leaders.

The mastering of this psychological construct is essential for our success in any professional or personal relationship, especially Sales.

Why is Theory of Mind important to sales and business?

You cannot hope to survive or thrive in business or life without a well developed Theory of Mind. Only through the continuous practice and implementation of Theory of Mind can we fully understand our colleagues, partners and clients’ perspectives and then look for mutually beneficial solutions based on real, tangible and fair exchanges of value.


Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, MD www.barrett.com.au

Delivering “good service” isn’t enough!

October 16, 2012 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Brand & Reputation, Competition, Customer Service, Marketing, Sales Driven Organisations, Sales Relationships, Sales Skills, Teamwork

I was impressed by a brief, but excellent ABC News Video on the impact of social media on a business’ reputation and brand, especially when things go wrong and that to reduce or eliminate any negative publicity issues to begin with starts with something rather old fashioned – delivering Service. This got Peter Finkelstein, our Sales Strategist and I musing about and the importance of good ‘ol fashioned customer service’ and what it really means today in a digital world.  Peter has proposed we adopt C.A.R.E. as our mantra. 

Here is what he has to say about C.A.R.E.:

Everyone knows that delivering good customer service is a fundamental building block. Here’s the challenge… If everyone knows about it, and most organisations are doing it (or at last trying to), then how can the delivery of “good service” be used as a differentiator? Or, is the question more likely to be: “How does one use service to create a competitive advantage?”

The reality is that delivering “good” service just isn’t good enough. In today’s competitive market, delivering good service is passé! To gain any advantage from service, companies will have to find ways to delight their customers. The best way to give sales a boost is to learn to live by the message hidden in the acronym C.A.R.E.

Everything going right

Companies need to dig very deep to find the competitive advantage

Following these fundamentals will help make C.A.R.E. a strong, lasting and profitable connection with customer….

1) Create a learning culture in the organisation. However long companies have been in the game and no matter the experience level of the customer-facing staff – sales, service and production – there’s always something else to learn about the products, services, customers, techniques, company and competition that will contribute to an improvement in both selling and customer support efforts. Stimulating a culture of innovation, where everything to do with customers is constantly challenged in order to find ways to improve information, ideas and strategies, helps develop the techniques that delight customers.

 2) Give away advice freely, but make sure it is good. Make it a goal to become a trusted adviser and business resource to customers. Most of the time, new and repeat customers and increased sales will follow. Customers should regard the company, and its sales and service people as people they can turn to for sound advice that helps them improve their own operations without worrying about having to pay for assistance.

 3) Map and communicate customer touch points on the value chain.  No one really likes surprises – let customers know what is going to happen to them when they work or partner with you.  What are the touch points in the relationship? What can the customer expect to happen and when?  If you are in any form of long term arrangement with your customers it helps that your salespeople clearly communicate these touch points up front and that the rest of your organization along that value chain knows their role in delivering your promise of value to your customers.

 4) Be consistent. The single most important aspect of brand equity (i.e. that magic ingredient that makes a brand strong and valuable) is consistency. Potential customers are always sizing the company and its customer-facing staff up. Credibility, achievements and even the delivery of outstanding service in the past can be obliterated in the blink of an eye by the failure to keep promises. It is now more important than ever that companies commit to and live by the mantra of professionalism – “Make promises you can keep and keep the promises you make…” Make sure you have the tools in place to monitor and measure turnaround and response times – because your customers do. Make sure that your actions match your words.

 5) Continuous Improvement. Customer centric organisations stay flexible and open to change. They follow the lead set by their customers in a segment. When buyers are informal they develop a culture of informality. When customers are businesslike they create a culture of unity by reflecting that characteristic. To be able to delight customers organisations have to size up the situation and circumstances in a segment and adapt their service delivery to a level higher than the expected. It is no longer good enough to have a standard service ethic. Whatever the current level of service is, that’s good enough for today. Tomorrow it has to be better.

6) Think resolution and closure. The constant goal of any customer-centric organisation should be to resolve any customer concerns or obstacles as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Provide customers with all the information they need to make an informed decision and reassure them why a decision to buy / support the organisation is a wise choice.

Companies need to incorporate that Customers Are Really Everything

Companies need to incorporate that
Customers Are Really Everything

In any customer interaction service is the backbone of success. Most customers will not buy the cheapest product or service if they have to pay a higher price for dealing with an insensitive, uncaring or unreliable service or sales person in an organisation. Incorporating the C.A.R.E. philosophy – Customers Are Really Everything – into the fabric of the organisation goes a long way to building the competitive advantage that rivals will find hard to emulate.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au 

How do your clients really perceive you?

October 11, 2012 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Business Acumen, Communication, Education in Sales, Mindful selling, Prospecting, Role Clarity, Sales Coaching, Sales Culture, Sales Leadership, Sales Relationships

Perception is reality. So what do your clients really think of you? Would you be happy with how they perceive you? Are they thinking any of the following when they think about you and your company?:

  1. ‘I’m so glad I’ve met you; my life/business is better off for knowing you.’
  2. ‘Oh that guy (gal), yeh they’re pretty good’
  3. ‘They’re nice but I don’t always have the time to chat with them’
  4. ‘That arrogant so and so’
  5. ‘Aghhh, I don’t trust them, get them out of my office now’
  6. ‘Who?’

Good relationships take time and effort to build and create something really valuable and viable. To the client, having a relationship with a Salesperson, Business Development Manager or Account Manager, who sells to them and manages their account means very little unless they perceive that we actually bring real value to them and the business relationship.

We’ve spoken before about the meaning of Value. Our real mission, as sales professionals is to find out what Value means to each of our clients and in turn have them find Value in us, our team, our products/services and the company that we represent.

However, as much as we would like to have a great relationship with all of our clients we do not seem to be able to achieve this with all of them. It’s a bit like our friendship groups: some are our closest or best friends and we love to spend time with while others are acquaintances whom we see occasionally and do not value as much as we do our best friends. Often this is because we do not know them well enough to be our best friends or we don’t have the time or inclination to progress it any further.

Do you ever get the feeling that your client relationships get stuck in a rut or stall or that they do not value you as much as you value them? We often say ‘If only they could see what we can really do for them, things would be different.’

How you are perceived by your clients is critical to your success with them. If you do not like how you are currently being perceived by your clients there are things you can do to change their perception of you.
The following table aligns customer perceptions to you, your product/service with the expected behaviours you are likely to see from them. It then offers tips about what to do to shift the perception to a better place.

Perception of relationship Client behaviour How to shift client perceptions up ladder
Commodity Sees your offering as a commodity; same as the competitors; they show no loyalty and have high price sensitivity; constantly asking for cheaper prices.

Make sure you differentiate your offering from competitors by presenting your competitive edge; highlighting relevant product/service benefits and demonstrate value beyond product.

Product/service provision Sees more value in what you offer however still looks around at offers from other providers. They have low or some loyalty but still have high price sensitivity. High price sensitivity Enhance customer experience by being a problem solver using your knowledge and experience
Value-add Loyalty is growing; likely to call you in if looking at new deals but may still have you go up against competitors on new deals.  Less price sensitivity and looking more at total cost of ownership. Understand real customer needs and priorities and create more value by being a problem preventer, not just a problem solver.
Partner There is high loyalty to you and your company; you are called on for advice and guidance and they see your offering as adding real value. There is lower price sensitivity and much more emphasis placed on real value and total cost of ownership. Offer a full management partner process.


As clients, we all like to buy from someone whom we trust, both the individual and the company they represent. The other day our team at Barrett was discussing how our clients perceive us and what they really like about us (based on their feedback and testimonials) and the overwhelming theme was that they really valued our straight talking, no BS, tell-it-like-it-is approach, our ability to demystify things and our ability to map a pathway forward to success and appropriately equip them and their teams for the journey ahead. That doesn’t happen by accident. We have to earn the reputation.

There are a number of things you can do

There are a number of things you can do

There are a number of things we can do that will help engender that trust and build highly effective client relationships based on real value:

  • Be open and honest in all communications
  • Keep the customer informed of processes, knowledge, market information, new products and ideas, etc.
  • Be interested in their business
  • Be a real professional and help them define what ‘Success’ will look like
  • Create and offer a planned approach for change
  • Use your business acumen & commercial awareness to offer ideas and make good decisions
  • think about possibility and help realise real results
  • above all be consistent – consistently good.


Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

Customer Satisfaction & Retention Booster

July 10, 2012 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Customer Service, Marketing, Sales Management, Sales Relationships, Sales Results, Sales Tips, Success

It is five to ten times easier to keep a customer we have than to get a new one – so taking customer satisfaction and retention seriously should be serious business. We already have the most powerful marketing tool to boost customer satisfaction and increase customer retention, as well as improve employee morale and develop new products and services that are exactly what our customers want and need. The problem is that most companies don’t use it.

There is no more useful tool in our marketing armoury than our front-line sales and service people. They are constantly getting feedback from customers about what is good, what is bad, what is missing and what the competition are doing.

Listening to the Needs of the Customer

Listening to the Needs of the Customer

Do you have open communication channels within your business so that sales and service staff can feedback customers comments, queries, ideas and complaints? Do you take this information seriously and do something useful with it?

It is very easy to dismiss customer complaints as unfounded griping or ignore customer ideas and comments as irrelevant. Feedback from sales people about products/services not meeting customer needs or complaints about service delivery can be perceived by management as excuses for not achieving sales targets. However, if management effectively registered these comments from the field, analyzing them for trends, insights and new ideas, they could include vital information in their strategy deliberations where they could create new solutions and

1. Further boost customer loyalty
2. Create a competitive advantage
3. Improve morale for sales and service teams

By using the sales teams’ feedback, the business is able to develop better products and services to meet customers’ needs and the bonus is that sales people feel included in the future direction and growth of their business. By being taken seriously, sales people are not just seen as the one dimensional revenue generators. Their feedback affects:

“do the right thing by customers and take their feedback seriously then it creates less administrative work rather than more.”

and builds our

  • Industry knowledge
  • Customer knowledge
  • Domain knowledge

To begin collecting feedback from the field we need to sensitise the sales team to its importance. We need to make them aware of the market they serve and then put a system in place for collecting, channeling and addressing customer feedback. Social media tools and PDAs (personal device applications) such Smart Phones and Smart Tablets should make it much easier for feedback to be collected. Essentially, every customer interaction is market research for sales people and should always be treated as such.

The dilemma that faces many sales managers is to keep their sales people selling, with as much face time in front of customers as possible and reporting customer feedback can possibly add extra administration time.

However, if we do the right thing by customers and take their feedback seriously then it creates less administrative work rather than more. Once sales people understand that action will be taken on their feedback, they feel compelled to gather the information.

In today’s competitive marketplace if we are not collecting customer feedback through our sales people and fail to act on it, our customer will quickly find someone else who will.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

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