Going Meta: Why Your Buyer Needs a New Perspective


The world is forever conspiring against the revenue optimist.

Buyers get indecisive. Sales cycles lengthen. Big money gets wasted pursuing deals that never close. Or maybe someone else wins. Why does this happen?

Because you’re boxed into a narrow frame.

Maybe someone else decided what the conversation would be about before you arrived and now you’re at a clear disadvantage. Or maybe someone important will soon decide that the issue under discussion isn’t that important. Your precious investment of time and resources will simply vanish as your prospect decides (slowly and fitfully) not to decide at all.

Typically, bad things happen when the scope of a sales conversation is narrow — when it doesn’t address the arc of the buyer’s decision journey.

Consider this: You never want a conversation to begin with an explanation of what’s great about you or, even worse, why you’re better, faster, cheaper than your competitors.

And, if it does, you want to widen the frame.

You want to go meta — and have a bigger conversation. In fact, you want a conversation about the conversation — one that addresses a full set of concerns (not just the ones the buyer has self-diagnosed) and options (not just the ones related to your product).

That’s how TripAdvisor eclipsed Priceline, Travelocity, and even its former parent, Expedia. It went upstream in the value chain, diminishing the perceived value of all the other players downstream. It expanded the conversation.

By offering reliable guidance to travelers, not just inexpensive tickets and hotel rooms, it has experienced extraordinary growth. Indeed, TripAdvisor wins by offering “metasearch,” not just search. It aggregates everyone else’s offers, placing itself at a higher level of value.

Go meta…

It’s a principle that applies to corporate strategy, but it applies to marketing and sales strategies as well. Be a reliable guide. Provide an aerial view. Reframe the conversation.

Get beyond the factors that are immediately visible.

You want to speak to hidden issues and larger concerns. You want to clarify why the status quo is unacceptable — if, in fact, it is. You want to surface the risks that remain buried and unacknowledged, particularly if they threaten the personal status or ambitions of your prospect.

You want to honestly address the strengths and limitations of available options — the ones you present and the ones you don’t. That’s how you make it matter and make it real. That’s what it means to be a thought leader and trusted authority as opposed to a mere product purveyor.

Rather than get trapped giving a confined set of answers, you want to raise new questions: Have the implications, costs and consequences of your prospect’s current situation been fully considered? Has the prospect considered what companies in a similar situation have experienced (in the absence of a solution) and the actions they took to achieve breakthrough performance?

By stepping back and widening the frame, you can provoke new discussion and build confidence.

You can expose risks and vulnerabilities that your prospect (or competitive rival) may not have explored. You can also present options that may not have been considered in the context of why a buyer might need to change and take action in the first place.

In this frame, you want to present a vivid picture. But it’s not a static picture. It’s a moving picture — a dynamic, visually rich, and action-oriented presentation that captures and expresses your point of view.

Your wide-angle view (showing organizational risks) can shift to close-ups (expressing personal risks) — and vice versa. You can zoom in and out. Provide perspective. Then get personal.

But get out of the narrow frame. And, more importantly, help your prospect get out of this narrow frame. After all, you win by being a decision advisor to your prospects. You win by providing a differentiated perspective, not merely a differentiated product.

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