“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” – Anais Nin
We each see the world through the lenses ground by the sum of our individual life experiences, coupled with our ideological views. It’s how we make sense of the world; by filtering information through the beliefs and assumptions informing our understanding of how the world works. Flexible but limited, these information filters – or ‘mental models’ – inform everything we think, say, and do. And so if you want to change what people do, you need to change how they think by shifting their more basic mental model and mindset.
For B2B marketers of innovative solutions, this is the primary challenge of an Insight Selling approach: to disrupt conventional mental models and buyer thinking by re-framing value proposition(s) in ways that effectively engage prospects with a unique, valued, and thus differentiated perspective.
And in case you doubt the need to jar prospects out of conventional mindsets, consider the following statistic from a recent CEB study[i]: “Only 14% of B2B buyers see a valuable difference between the business value of different brands.” With the vast majority of buyers seeing no appreciable difference between the value of what different competitive brands offer, B2B marketers of innovative solutions have their work cut out for them in portraying their offering as something other than a mere commodity. Clearly, it’s time these marketers grind a new set of lenses for their target audience and help them see things from a fresh, new perspective.
A recent Harvard Business Review blog post (Mark Boncheck’s “Don’t Sell a Product, Sell a Whole New Way of Thinking”[ii]) offers advice on how to leverage the power of mental models. Here are 3 steps to help shift conventional thinking and form a new frame and perspective for your brand message:
Identify the “aha” moment – There’s a point when discussing an innovation or insight where your audience and prospects clearly begins to understand its value to them – the “aha” moment. It’s visible on their faces as clouded expressions clear, the new insight takes hold, and their thinking shifts from the conventional approach to your new one. Identifying this shift is critical to knowing how to form and frame your new message. To identify where this shift happens and how, Boncheck suggests you ask yourself a few questions:
- What original insight led to the innovation?
- What are people not understanding about the innovation?
- What triggers the “aha moment”?
Boncheck cautions that you’re not seeking to identify the value proposition in this step, but rather the mental model – the underlying assumption – at play.
Find the sticking point – Boncheck’s second point is to identify what’s preventing your prospects from readily seeing the value of your innovation/insight – which mental models are getting in the way? Typically, prospects have issues in one of three areas:
- They don’t see the problem. This situation arises when prospects are operating with a different understanding of the current reality, often without an understanding of how issues relate and the consequences thereof. Adopt a ‘systems perspective’ to help disrupt conventional thinking and substantiate a different view of the current reality.
- They recognize the problem, but not your relevance. To shift thinking in your favor in this situation, you need to clearly draw the relationship between your insight and the existing problem. Seek to highlight the connection between your differentiators and your prospect’s key concerns.
- They recognize the problem and your relevance, but aren’t acting on it. Help prospects transition from consideration to action by making it as simple as possible for them. Provide them a path of least resistance by crafting a clear how-to-get-from-here-to-there message. Also be sure that the change imperative is clear, as well as the associated cost of continued inaction.
Make is personal – The third step in shifting mental models is to provide B2B prospects with a message of personal value; i.e. how your offering will provide them various professional, social, and emotional benefits. Last fall’s CEB/Google study (“From Promotion to Emotion”[iii]) found that “personal value has twice the impact of business value across a broad range of commercial outcomes.”
Fundamentally, the question for B2B marketers is, how can conventional buyer thinking be disrupted, mindsets changed, and value proposition(s) reframed in ways that effectively engage prospects with a unique, valued, and thus differentiated perspective? The studies are clear – B2B marketers need to learn how to grind a new set of lenses for their prospects, that they may better see the value being offered them.
To read more on disrupting mental models with an insight selling approach, read our blog How Psychographics and Insight Selling Drive B2B Behavior.