Traits of Top Salespeople

"Top salespeople are flexible: they can adapt to changing circumstances or client needs efficiently."

Why #TheDress matters (OR Why perception equals reality in sales)

Why #TheDress matters (OR Why perception equals reality in sales)

As I write this article, #TheDress has been trending on Twitter and other social media outlets for days and has gone viral. I am not going to get into a scientific discussion here on cones and rods in your eye. However, it is important to learn from this rage, especially if you earn a living in sales.

The current viral controversy is that some people observe the dress to be black and blue stripes while others see the dress to be gold and white stripes. There are scientific reasons for this confusion but the most important consideration is that everyone thinks they are correct. Think about this, if this subject had not hit Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so hard, everyone would believe that their perception of the colors of the dress was 100% of reality. If you saw a picture of #TheDress, wouldn’t you automatically assume that the color combination you perceive is reality?

Put in another way, how many images of clothes, cars, homes or stuffed animals have you questioned your perception of the color? If this is the first time that you questioned your perception, doesn’t it seem likely that this combination of colors and lighting has affected the rods and cones in your eye before?

Perception equals reality is something that salespeople have to contend with every day. It can be in your favor, and it can hurt you. Let’s give some simple examples:

  • Your product is expensive versus your product is affordable.
  • Your company gives great support versus your company gives adequate support.
  • Management needs information about the productivity of the sales force versus management is asking for so many reports the sales force doesn’t have time to sell.
  • Salespeople are essential in today’s market versus the Internet makes salespeople irrelevant.

I will be addressing that last point in a future article, but I think that almost all of us can agree that the earlier three were all a matter of perspective. The perspective of a person influences their version of reality.

Your marketing department advises you of certain facts about your product or products. You would assume that most of those facts are not interpreted as perception. We typically consider them to be speeds and feeds types of facts. Examples could be weight, torque, amount of RAM, number of CPUs, and even color. Interestingly, as we learned from #TheDress, color is not exactly a perfectly factual feature since it does require the viewer to perceive the combination of colors in a certain way.

Other facts typically are about the products ability to offer a benefit to the end customer. These are much more open to perception. You need to explain these features to the prospect, and the prospect may not take your word for the benefit. These features only have perceived benefits to certain prospects and likely have few benefits to others.

It is the job of the salesperson to understand the perception of the buyer, since the buyer’s perception is 100% of reality. A buyer that sees no value in your feature literally thinks that feature is worthless. If you continue to try to change the perception of that buyer on the value of a single feature, you are likely wasting your time. Instead, it is your job as a professional salesperson to understand the perception of the buyer and present features to that buyer that have value to that buyer.

Just like some people perceive that #TheDress is gold and white while others perceive it to be black and blue, perception is reality. It is your job as a professional salesperson to understand that perception and alter your conversation with the prospect to influence their version of reality.


The Dress (viral phenomenon)” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

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