When I graduated from university proudly wearing my iron ring, I faced the same uncertainty as many graduates do – Am I ready? It wasn’t exactly a cake walk getting through those non-stop arduous classes; and dealing with the diversity of topics that all had to be crammed into a few years. And after the rollercoaster ride of small achievements, intertwined with regular doses of doubt of one sort or another, this degree was being bestowed upon me. And apparently I was ready to go out and do something useful in the world.
Like a birdling ready to leave the nest for the first time, I couldn’t help but crave for bit more certainty about the whole. So it seemed like the right time to pay close attention to the profound words of the dean of electrical and computer engineering. And the words of wisdom were:
“What you know is not as important as what you think you know”.
Well that solved things. All that is necessary is to have achieved that state-of-mind where I think I know the issue at hand. And then I can take action and get busy in dealing with it.
As it turns out, there is a important principle in that snippet of wisdom that was imparted on me. Certainty. In the continually changing world in which we operate, certainty is never a definite. It is rarely at 100%. The best that we can achieve most of the time is that we think we know the answer – or we are pretty sure of our thinking. Or putting it another way, we can be certain about most aspects of the issue at hand. And when I reflect on the world of engineering, the mindset certainly holds true. It is just not feasible to know everything – the state of perfection just becomes an obstacle to success. And so it is with certainty – the need to have full certainty stops action from being taken.
None-the-less, there must be some level of certainty that is needed to move forward. And when it comes to engaging new prospective buyers for the problem that you solve, it is really important to understand the buyer’s certainty gauge. Despite the fact that you may have a solution to the prospective buyer’s problem, things will start out with a certainty reading of zero. And the challenge is to move that gauge as far the buyer needs it go to have the willingness to take action.
But moving that gauge takes multiple different inputs. The September 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review indeed has an excellent breakdown of what those different inputs are – or levers are they refer to them. The 4 levers are:
Consensus which is the perception that there are others who share our assessment of things. And when others share our view, it increases our level of certainty.
Repetition which is the process of repeating the message in different ways and facilitating that the prospect is able to repeat their own acceptance of the concepts being presented. And this increases the level of certainty that is felt.
Ease which deals with how easily the concept comes to mind. If the key concepts can be simplified in a way that makes them easy to come to mind, it increases the certainty about them.
Defense which is the process whereby someone is put in position where they must defend their thoughts. And consequently, they become more certain of their position.
When you are moving your prospective buyer through the buying cycle, it is process of progressively increasing their certainty levels about you. And ultimately making them certain enough to take action. The real key is that there are multiple levers that affect the aggregate certainty level. One demo will not do it. One white paper will not do it. Increasing your buyer’s certainty level about your solution will be made up of some proportional mix of those different levers. And that proportional mix will be individually determined by each prospect. As a solution provider, it is key that you devise methods of engagement such that you are working all the levers and customizing your approach to move each prospect to the point where they are certain enough to take the next step.