The Map & the Reality


One of the principles I put across in most of my workshops is that it is fine to mindlessly mouth the adage that change is the only constant in the world. What we do not realize that change is not just a constant but that there are multiple realities and all that we perceive to be realities are also constantly changing. Thus, everything we perceive or “map” to be our reality is not what others perceive it to be. And, not only do these internal maps or perceptions differ but they are also, always, in a constant, frenzied flux. It’s as if all our individual minds are like frenzied snow-globes of different kinds and then we all live, work and progress inside a huge snow-globe called life.

The Map & the RealityHow does this relate to sales?

How many times have you been working on a client and when you think you are about to close the deal and they call you and say, “Uh, sorry pal, but we are making some internal changes and can we get back to you like in November? It’s not that we don’t like you or your service but it’s just that…an internal thing!” And, you say to yourself, “Oh, darn! I thought that was almost a done deal. Man, that’s five weeks of work down the drain. Aargh!”

Post that disastrous moment and after banging your head against an imaginary wall for a few days, you sit down to think. You sit down to analyse. You run every meeting, every moment and every verbal and non-verbal exchange you had the client and wonder where did you go wrong? Why did you not see it coming? Yes, there was a moment when the CFO seemed to be a bit distant and suspicious of your background and your company’s ability to serve their needs. Or, was it that they did really have an internal problem? Or, was it an internal power play among the executives? Or, in the five weeks that you were chasing them did they find somebody cheaper, better and faster? Yes, there was a time that you did feel a very slight dissonance in the conversations that were occurring between you and them.

Yes, there was a shift in the perceptions. The map in your mind and the maps in the minds of your customer’s representative were slightly skewed. Yes, that was the time when you should have paused, stepped back, taken in a much holistic and objective view of the sales process and corrected the situation and calibrated the conversation towards your objective, towards the goal of, authentically, serving the client’s needs and adapting to their shifting world of realities.

I have seen scores of sales people suffer and cringe after such disasters. They go into the post-failure, regretful, self-blaming mode. The truth behind such situations is simple.

One: Maybe the customer was really undergoing some internal changes. Then you probably have to wait and hope for progress after the adjustments.

Two: Maybe one of the executives had another, personal, agenda. Then you should have been intuitive and astute enough to probe and get to the issue tactfully and move in ways to hop over the internal politics and move towards a win-win.

Three: Yes, maybe there was another source that was faster, cheaper and better. In that case your competitive analysis needed help and your ability to be quick and agile needs some grooming.

Four: Maybe your needs changed. Maybe your values fell out of alignment with that of the company you represent at an unconscious level but, at the cognitive level, you kept on plugging away for the sake of appearances. You might think others do not notice this change in your internal maps but they do, specially, the ones who have a stake in your commitments and values.

Five: You need to master the fact that there are multiple realities and the realities keep changing. The maps you hold on the desktop of your mind are, usually, not the realities.

In closing, be cautious and conscious of change happening not just in the marketplace or in the customers business but also within yourself and your organisation. Your ability to be precise and agile will have a direct impact on your performance and your abilities to sell and excel at work and in life.

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