It’s widely accepted that a key part of any marketing and sales process is the ability to move prospects and customers through a purchase lifecycle from brand awareness through to purchase. What’s often less focused on is the process of being successful at each stage of that process. This is sometimes seen as a fuzzy process dependent primarily on intuition. As somebody who has worked in marketing and sales, I naturally got to thinking about this key element of the overall process and how it can be formalised.
After researching the subject and aligning this with my personal experience, it became clear that each stage follows the same process. A fact which was immediately lead me to a far more effective approach to marketing and sales. Even better still is the that the process is a simple one and can be summed up in three words that I can quickly remember during an internal meeting or client visit…
This is a situation in the mind the prospect or customer where they have multiple ‘facts’ relating to an area of the sale and where one or more of these are not aligning with the others. In direct dialogue with a client, this can often be identified by signs of uncertainty, stress, or frustration whereas in marketing we have to live with taking a more generalised approach around the common dissonances that we know typically affect our prospect base.
Consonance is a state of harmonisation in a customers mind where a dissonance has been resolved. Achieving a strong state of overall consonance is important not only for making a sale but also for the subsequent success of the product or service delivery after the sale. Or, in other words, it’s a key part of the customer experience.
Consonance is a term I use to describe what the resolution of a dissonance looks like. Typically a consonance describes one of three things relating to the customer… best price (usually but not always the lowest), intellectual property (people, function, or copyright), and cultural fit (i.e. the best chance of forming an effective team between buyer and seller).
Resonance is the process we use to take our prospect or customer from the state of dissonance to the point of consonance, or, in other words, something that resonates in the persons’ mind and leads them to harmonise all the related facts together.
This can be achieved using any combination of three techniques for each dissonance. Each of these methods is calculated to lead the customer to be able to arrive at the full description of the consonance with the minimal amount of information from us.
- By communicating the dissonance and its associated consonance directly to the customer
- By describing two or more complimentary facts about the consonance to the customer and leading them just far enough to draw a conclusion which will, in turn, lead them to reach a state of consonance
- By using a third party who the customer trusts to communicate, knowingly or otherwise, on our behalf using techniques 1 and 2
In each case what we’re actually doing is teaching the customer. As with any form of teaching, this can be very sensitive so it’s important to understand a key principle around how the process of education works in order to be successful. In his blog post ‘Effective Teaching is a Long-Con’, Burak Kanber states that…
Telling the whole story is frustrating to students; it’s too much to take in all at once. The smart person tends to forget that they learned the whole story over years of intense learning. It’s hard for the smart person to let go of pieces of the story — to consciously omit them — even if they’re not of immediate importance.
I strive to have my students accidentally learn stuff. Your lessons or lectures or articles should omit the bits that aren’t of immediate importance, but leave a little trail of breadcrumbs in the process. Drop little clues about those tangential topics you want your students to come to understand. Eventually your students will piece it all together.
In order to ensure that we are always acting as a good teacher, it’s important that we select our method of resonance carefully based on the 3 choices above. If we have a strong relationship with the customer, then they may be willing to accept the direct learning process described in approach 1. However, in many situations, our customers may be intimidated in some way, perhaps feeling a need to be perceived as a subject matter expert, demonstrating a high degree of outward confidence in the process of decision making. In this case, approach 2 or 3 is better suited with approach 3 potentially resolving any additional dissonance that may have been created around impartiality or trust between ourselves and the customer.
Creating and resolving dissonance
The dissonance, resonance, consonance process is a skill that is difficult to master. But there’s an additional grand master element which is where we create a new dissonance that is essential to our sale and then resolve it. For example, if we want to sell a bicycle to a person who lives in a small village and has never travelled outside of their village, we may need to represent the benefit of travel to them first in order for them to understand why they might need a bicycle. If we fail to do this, we ourselves become the dissonance and the result will be failure.
Creating and resolving a dissonance is difficult primarily because, by design, it cannot usually be contrived and is consequently reliant upon creating an environment of Honesty, integrity, generosity and trust which, in turn, ultimately reflects our personal and collective degree of integrity and commitment.