Can you transform customer perceptions?

As a magician, I specialize in surprises: creating unexpected experiences and memorable moments. While the unexpected is a great foundation to my art, it is a challenge for my business. People want to buy what they know; what they have seen, heard and touched.

Clients are hesitant to “buy the invisible” – as Harry Beckwith points out.

Most of the people who hire me, first see me perform at another event. They make the connection that what they have seen me do will be a perfect fit for their business or social event and they contract me to perform. About 80% of my contracts come from people seeing me in person. Booking these shows is a breeze. People have seen it, they know it, they want it, they get it.

The remaining 20% of events come from people who find me on-line because they are looking for some form of corporate entertainer or keynote speaker. As the classic Pareto principle confirms, to convince 20% of potential clients to hire me when their board has not actually seen me perform often takes 80% of effort.

And that’s okay. Because if you haven’t seen magic presented in a sophisticated manner, for intelligent adults, in a business environment, you’re not likely going to make the connection that magic is a fit.

Everyone has a different perception of magic. Most people, when thinking of magic, think of children’s parties. Others think of cruise-ship performers. And some recall an embarrassing moment when they were ridiculed up on stage by some goofy “comedy-magician.”

Whatever people have seen or experienced in person is what they attach to it. Unfortunately, this means that their definition of magic is based on just one or two experiences.

Once that idea is locked in, nothing can change their mind except having a different experience.

To change their perception, all I have to do is perform for them once. It’s an easy solution. I show them the trick that I used to fool Penn & Teller and not only do they get to appreciate the magic, but more importantly they see how my real job is about interacting with the people, engaging their attention and interest, and creating a genuine connection between us while laughing and having fun at the same time.

Bam! Done. But, I can’t always do that.

For the 20% of clients who have found me on-line, and especially for those that have to share in the final decision with other members of their team, the opportunity to perform isn’t possible.

So what do I do as a magician to change perceptions? It’s the same thing that you can do if you are also in the business of “selling the invisible.” First, ask. Second, acknowledge. Third, assist.

  1. ASK – The client most likely has a preconceived notion of your product or service. You must discover what shaped that experience, created that memory, or crafted that perception. Let them tell you as much as they can about what they saw, heard, felt. If the client trusts you, they will tell you why that previously negative experience has impacted them to believe what they do now.
  2. ACKNOWLEDGE – People don’t like to have their opinions challenged or ignored. You must confirm that their past experience is real and that you understand why they have the perception they do. Acknowledge that they are right to feel the way they do. If you can, ask deeper questions of individual members of the decision making team, so you can get a more complete understanding of their perceptions.
  3. ASSIST – Help them see the future. If they can’t see your product or service in action, you have to fire up their imagination. Ask them what they imagine a perfect product or service to be. Ask them to describe the ideal scenario that would occur if your product worked. Because they cannot see what you do, it is imperative that they paint a new picture and get a new understanding of what’s possible. Assist them in imagining things the way they have never imagined them before.

These three steps are a part of every sales process. They are imperative when a client pushes back because their previous experiences have narrowed their perceptions of what is possible. Ask about where they are and acknowledge it to be so. Then and only then assist them in seeing the future as they would like it to be. If you do all of this in due time, with patience, providing helpful information along the way, maybe your client will make the leap that it is your product or service that will get them from where they are now to where they want to be.

As a professional entertainer, I take pride in surprising and delighting my audiences with the unexpected. As a full-time business owner, I take pride in communicating to my clients exactly what they should expect.

I value every opportunity to connect, ask, acknowledge, and assist my clients. I encourage you to do the same. Doing so will show you that most of the time, you don’t need to change the reality of your product or service. You just need to change how your customer perceives it.