Sales: The Game of Reference Points

BY Rachel Cagle
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When you go to make a decision about something, what’s your general thought process? A lot of the time, we come up with a few options and compare them to see which one we’d rather choose at that time. Your potential clients’ decision making processes are likely the same when deciding whether or not they’d like to do business with you, according to Colin Shaw’s article, “How We Make Decisions – Prospect Theory.”

So, how do you become your client’s salesperson of choice? First, you need to figure out what their existing points of reference are. Who is your competition? Who has the client worked with before? Even if you can’t find that information on your own, ask your client about their past experiences with similar products or services. Once you know your client’s reference points, it will be easier for you to differentiate yourself.

Keep it classy when establishing yourself as different than the competition. Insulting your competition outright will only succeed in making you seem immature. State the facts of what you can offer compared to the client’s past experiences and let them come to the conclusion that you’re the better option on their own.

Remember, whether or not your meeting with a client ends up being fruitful, you’re also creating a new point of reference by interacting with them. How are you setting the bar for the salespeople who will attempt to get their business after you? Are you establishing yourself as a pleasant person who they would reach out to if their current partner doesn’t work out? Being not only knowledgeable about your products and services, but friendly, empathetic, and laid back as well will reinforce your reference point as a positive one.

Sales is a game of comparison. Everything you do in a meeting creates a new point of reference for a client and everything other salespeople do is something for you to pitch off of. So, do your research and ask questions to know how to set yourself apart and make sure you put your best foot forward so that you’ll be a difficult reference point to overshadow.