Taking Another Point of View – What Do Your Customers Really Want?

By Amanda on January 10, 2010 | Category: Blog,Creative Thinking and Problem Solving Tools,Customer Relationship Management | Tags: , , | No Comments
Taking Another Point of View – What Do Your Customers Really Want?

Really understanding other perspectives is  vital for business owners and directors – actually, for all of us in all areas of our lives. At Gearing Up we combine  coaching and mentoring so we develop people’s self awareness and interpersonal skills, as well as solving business issues and transferring business management skills.

Taking another point of view is a very useful skill that can give you important insights into other people and situations. It can be a really effective way of helping to understand where your customers are coming from which is central to marketing that drives growth. It also works for team building, improving productivity – or any other situation involving human relationships.

Can you immediately see all the angles of a problem?

Do you really understand your customers’ wants?

Do you easily understand where your staff and colleagues are coming from?

How well do you relate to someone who operates very differently from you?

We often find that lack of real understanding of customers’ perspectives and points of view can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of clients’ sales and marketing. It sometimes takes a 180° switch to really ‘get’ what customers’ want – and then be able to deliver it.

What’s it about?
Often a person in a situation cannot see answers and perspectives that the other person has, or a person standing outside can. By moving between different perceptual positions (that is, different viewpoints), you can see a problem in new ways or with greater detachment, gathering more information and developing new choices of response.

The objective is to give you insights, gain deeper understanding and learning so you have more choice and flexibility – and you’ll get better results.

It’s a great life skill. Teaching it to others will enhance your relationships and yours’ and their performance.

• A strike looks very different from the viewpoint of a CEO, a worker, a customer and a supplier.
• Your children will have different perceptions of the importance of schoolwork vs. social activities
• You perceive a colleague as difficult and don’t work well with them
• You may see a problem in one way and your staff or colleagues see it completely differently – or not all.

• You think your customers are unreasonable

The technique
Step 1
(this is 1st position )
Start by considering an experience (from the past or future) from your own perspective. Get fully engaged. What do you see, hear and feel? How are you responding? What do you learn?

Now give yourself a little shake so you come out of that state.

Step 2 (this is 2nd position)
Now consider the same situation from the other person’s perspective. What do they feel? What are they thinking, what do they see, how are they responding? Again, get fully engaged; really get into their shoes. What do you learn?

Again give yourself a little shake so you come out of that state.

Step 3 (this is 3rd position)
Now consider the situation form the perspective of an impartial observer. What is going on? What are the dynamics of the people and situation? What do you learn?

Again give yourself a little shake so you come out of that state.

Step 4 Review your learning – apply to a future event
What did you learn? What can do (will you) do differently now?

You can go through the exercise again and run a future scenario when you will act differently. Notice how this feels and what results you get.

When you are first learning this technique it helps to physically move position as you explore.

1st position is you associated into your viewpoint

2nd position is the other person (or group), again associated, and

3rd position is the observer – a Meta position – above, detached, slightly more remote.

Moving around a triangle, and taking on the physiologies of the people (how they stand and sit, the language they use etc) really helps.

Practical Examples

1 You are preparing a tender or a presentation.
You need to gain more understanding of what the client wants. Thinking through their position, their perspective, their wants, the language they use, what’s going on in their organisation (dynamics, politics, culture), the objectives of the project (what would represent success) helps you to prepare the tender/presentation with additional information and the ability to empathise with their needs.

If you can really understand what they’re looking for,  you can use their language, use a structure that will work for them, and you can match their wants more exactly.

2 A customer is continually squeezing you on price.
You feel resentful and undervalued. The observer position may tell you that your customer has got contracts with no headroom, a culture of bullying suppliers, and an attitude that they can find alternatives easily.

Second position may make you wonder if your immediate contact is being bullied by her boss to get results (i.e. screw down prices) but she needs continual supply so she is reluctant to do the extra work and take the risk in switching suppliers.

You have now the information (and the strategic viewpoint) to be able to have a different sort of negotiation on broader terms. For example, underwriting continuity and quality of supply in exchange for fixed pricing, or using some items as loss leaders in an agreement covering volume, product/service range and time frames.
You can then prepare the case from your customer’s point of view so your contact can make the case internally – you can help her look good with her boss and you get more worthwhile business.

The additional knowledge may help you in taking the decision that this is an area of the market or type of culture that you don’t want to work with – and then you can feed this information into your targeting of new customers as well as relationship building with existing customers.

3 Your boss or a colleague seems to have different views
So what are they? If you feel defensive, it’s hard to really get to understand where someone else is coming from. Work through the exercise – you might like to start with 3rd position if it’s a particularly stressful situation.

What do you learn? How do they really perceive you and what’s going on? What’s going on for you? What can you do differently, how can you behave differently that can help the situation?

Perceptual positions is an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and psychology term denoting that a complex system may look very different, and different information will be available, depending how you look at it and your point of view.

The idea of multiple perceptual positions in NLP was originally inspired by Gregory Bateson’s double description; that is double (or triple) descriptions are better than one description. By deliberately training yourself in moving between perceptual positions you can develop new choice of responses.

The founders of NLP modelled this from Virginia Satir, the renowned family therapist, who would guide a client to stand – literally – in everyone’s shoes, until they understood better others’ position and feelings in the matter.

Robert Dilts uses multiple perceptual positions in his Disney Creativity Strategy. In this work, based on his modelling of Walt Disney, he teaches people to examine a goal from the perception of the Dreamer, the Realist (the one who brings it into reality), and the Critic.

Perceptual Positions is a technique that allows us to have multiple perspectives in any situation so that we can have greater influence and be more flexible.

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