Confronting a persistent slow down in sales, companies and individuals begin to think of internal changes – re-purposing their assets, intellectual and physical to better align themselves with external forces such as changes in technology and market structure that may be hindering their sales. At times this can be a positive approach, however, this focus on internal change may miss significant opportunities in external changes: re-framing customer and prospect problems and solutions.
Re-framing can be applied as a sales tactic to break through with a customer to a new engagement. And, re-framing is an ongoing process of making sure that your prospects and customers actually know what you do.
Events, behaviors, facts only have meaning in the context in which they are viewed. A frame is a persistent method for giving meaning to events, behaviors and facts. The old maxim, “Don’t be a hammer in search of a nail.”, deftly captures the power of frames in our thinking. Though most frames are unconscious and therefore unexamined, even those well structured, like those found in engineering and the sciences, can hinder discovering solutions to problems or even usefully defining the problem itself.
People and companies frequently approach problems from a framework, or even multiple frameworks, that are fixed or inherently narrow. The deeper the knowledge of the field involved, the more likely that the customer will approach problems from a predetermined framework. For the firm trying to gain entry into the problem solving process with their customers, these fixed frameworks become a significant barrier when t the firm’s present sales approach does not conveniently fit within the customer’s predetermined framework(s).
Re-framing sets events, behaviors, and facts in a new context, thus generates new meanings and understandings that can be helpful to a customer.
CHANGE HOW CUSTOMERS VIEW PROBLEMS OR OPPORTUNITIES
When you find that a customer or prospect is effectively stuck or stymied by their own frame of reference, try to break them out of the pattern. The straight ahead challenge to their thinking, “Perhaps looking at this problem from a different vantage point might be useful?”, will present you with the opportunity to offer a different framework. Provided that you have one that is both useful and includes the opportunity for you to show how your solutions might fit, you can push forward.
An alternative approach is to move the discussion to a higher level of view. All problems are embedded in a system. By moving the discussion to a higher level in the system you will have the chance to see how different elements and interplay feed into the definition of the problem and thus possible solution approaches.
You have to be very clear not to be self-serving in what your propose through either re-framing approach. If the customer comes to think that you are not being genuine in your offer to help solve the problem you will have probably not just lost this chance but any future chances of working with them.
CHANGE HOW CUSTOMERS VIEW YOU
Many times the customer’s problem in envisioning you and your company as part of the solution is that they have you stuck in an incorrect or narrow frame of reference. It is common for customers to either not know what you do or know only part of the story. How many times has it happened that you describe a service or product to even a good customer and hear them say, “Gee, I didn’t know you did that!”. So, you need to be at the ready with pithy stories and summaries of what you do. This is key to re-framing how the customer sees you.
So, before rushing of to re-purpose, think about re-framing.