Ever hear the phrase “Perception is Everything?”
Well, nothing could be more true.
I recently learned about a phenomenon called the transparency illusion — the belief that we’re all open books and that what we intend is what people see.
Guilty as charged.
I used to think that people knew my good intentions because they knew my heart! Not so much.
I also found out a few years ago that often, when listening to others speak, my eyebrows would inadvertently raise up, incorrectly revealing disbelief or even disdain. Apparently, it is common for people to make faces when deep in thought. Yikes!
Again, perception is everything. And this leads us to this month’s DO IT NOW exercise…
DO IT NOW!
As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to exist in your own bubble and, even worse, to surround yourself with people that think just like you. However, even more important than what you think is what the world, and your potential customers, think.
Would you like to know how your company is perceived? Let’s find out…
Select 3 people who will speak frankly with you, including:
- One family member or close friend who frequently listened to you talk about your company.
- One business colleague who knows what you do, but from a distance or from a different industry. A consultant type would be perfect!
- One business colleague who knows what you do…AND is a potential customer.
Request a meeting via zoom or phone (face-to-face would be great, but donning a mask during a meeting is not ideal!). If they prefer, you can send them the questions in advance.
Step two: During the meeting, ask three simple questions:
- Regarding my company, can you tell me what we do?
- Given all you have seen or learned about my company, can you please give me five words — good or bad — that best describe my company and our product?
- If you could give my company one word of advice to improve perceptions, what would that be?
Chances are, the responses will surprise you.
A few quick reminders:
- If you don’t fully understand a response, don’t be afraid to ask for clarity!
- Be GRATEFUL for their time…and stay focused on how giving they are to even take the time out to talk with you. This will keep you from any bitter response (even the slightest grimace)…it is not always easy to accept criticism.
- Try to avoid defending or explaining unless absolutely necessary — that is not why you are there! Be an objective listener. The more you are open to learning, the more details they will share.
After you have sent your thank you notes, take time to contemplate their answers and identify themes and patterns. If you feel you need more information, conduct a few more interviews, or even send an email survey to your mailing list.
Once you have drawn conclusions, what follows is the most important step: Take your learnings and discuss them with your team. What gaps are there between how you ARE being perceived and how you WANT to be perceived? How might this affect your success? What changes could be made NOW? And then…do it!