EP - 038

Perception Is Truth

With Mark Drager

Proactive management of public perception through consistent branding and marketing efforts can significantly boost a business's reputation and client trust.

The How To Sell More Podcast


December 1, 2023

In this episode of 'How To Sell More,' host Mark Drager brings a fresh perspective on the importance of perception in business. He explores why the way people perceive your business can often be just as crucial, if not more, than the actual facts, delving into the psychology behind consumer decisions. Mark shares his thoughts on navigating the complex world of perception.

Key takeaways include:

-Gaining insights on how perception can make or break your business's reputation.

-Learning tips on aligning how you see your business with the public perception.

-Discovering strategies for making every interaction with your business a chance to shape a positive image.

The world of business perception is vast, filled with subtleties that can significantly impact how your business is perceived and, ultimately, its success. Dive into these key secrets of perception management with us – learn those small, yet powerful strategies that can transform the way customers view your business.

Links to This Episode

Key Takeaways

  • Importance of Perception in Business - Perception forms the reality of clients and customers, overriding objective facts. How a business is seen by outsiders significantly impacts its success.
  • Perception Management is Vital for Branding and Marketing - Effective branding and marketing hinge on understanding and shaping public perception. This includes everything from visual branding to customer interactions.
  • Opportunity for Reinvention and Addressing Past Issues - Each new interaction, marketing campaign, or business pivot offers an opportunity to redefine or improve public perception, distancing from past negatives.

Top 3 Reasons to Listen

Enhance Customer Relationships: Discover strategies to better connect with your customers by understanding and influencing their perceptions.

Empower Your Sales Team: Equip your sales team with the knowledge to understand and use perception to their advantage in sales conversations..

Overcome Negative Press: Learn techniques to overcome past negatives and how to reinvent your brand's image positively.

More About our Host, Mark Drager

AKA the Badass Brand Architect, 5th Generation Entrepreneur, Host of The How To Sell More Podcast

When he's not podcasting, Mark's the Co-Founder & CEO of SalesLoop. He's a dedicated husband to his high school sweetheart, Jacqueline, and a proud father of four.

Mark didn't follow the typical route to becoming a sales & marketing expert. A connected figure in the entrepreneur community, Mark provides listeners with a unique mix of wit, insight, and straightforward advice.

Some of Mark's unconventional adventures include commandeering a Boeing 737-800 for a day, facing harsh criticism from a billionaire, and shedding 70 lbs in his late 30s. Though he never attended college, Mark stands as proof of the might of maintaining a student mindset and being ever-ready to seek assistance.

A Transcription of The Talk

Mark Drager: Welcome to "How to Sell More." Today, we are talking about why perception is truth and how this truism that I came across many years ago affects your sales, marketing, brand, and customer experience — every aspect of your business. I'm Mark Drager; let's get into it. So, a few weeks ago, my oldest daughter, Rachel, who's 17, came into the living room and found me lying on the floor.  And she goes, "What are you doing?" And I said, "I'm doing push-ups." And she's like, "No, you're not." And I was like, "Yes, I am. I'm doing push-ups." And she's like, "No, you're not. You're lying on the floor." Here's the thing, both of us were right. She happened to walk in while I was resting from having just done a lot of push-ups. And was I enjoying that rest? I was enjoying that rest, let me tell you.

I was enjoying every second of my recovery. From my experience, having just finished doing all these push-ups, I was tired as hell, out of breath, and having a moment. I was just recovering. Because guess what, in a few seconds, I'm going to have to do 20 more. But for my daughter, walking into the room, she just sees her dad lying on the living room floor doing nothing. And so, I think this perfectly illustrates what happens so often in business, customer service, account management, and the back end of delivery. So many times, we fail to recognize that perception is truth.

You see, just like my daughter, who walks into the living room to find her 40-year-old dad lying on the floor doing nothing, she thinks, "What's going on here? This is strange." Her truth, her perception, what she believed to be happening, was very different from my experience, from what had happened a few seconds or minutes before. She caught a snapshot in time. What we need to recognize as business leaders, marketers, and business development professionals is that at every single moment, every touchpoint, everything our team does, how we respond, how we react, how our brand shows up, how our advertising appears — every single touchpoint with every prospect, every customer, and every referral — is that in that exact moment, however, we are perceived, that is that person's truth.

You know, when we started our agency back in 2006, we began as a video production company. I went to film school. We were doing video and hired a lot of production people. By 2011 or 2012, we were doing about a million dollars in revenue a year, moving upmarket, and dealing with larger companies with higher expectations. I started to recognize a gap between how my team showed up in terms of account management, project management, customer experience, and what the expectations were. I developed these five truths, one of these operating principles that I developed for my team was the idea that perception is truth.  

And it's because I would hear grumbles behind the scenes. Let's say I would hear complaints. We would do something with the best of intentions, with the best of work. We would jump onto a project, and the client would be misinformed, or they just didn't know what was happening. Or they jumped to a conclusion or blamed us for something that was out of our control. In that moment, I would remind my team, that it is so important how we choose to show up and how we choose to react because perception is truth. It doesn't matter if it was within our control or not. If they think it was within our control, then that's the truth. It doesn't matter how hard we work behind the scenes if they don't see us working hard. Or if they don't understand that we're working hard or they don't value that, then frankly, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if we're having a bad day, or there are 100 things going wrong, or things are burning down, or frankly, if we are trying to get a project done or deliver for a client and the client is getting in the way. And we get a little frustrated because they are creating roadblocks that don't need to be there. If we show up like an asshole, then we're an asshole. If we show up super smart, then we're smart. If we show up sharp, we're sharp. The objectivity that many people want to hold on to does not exist when we are dealing with prospects, clients, and our network. Perception is truth, and how people feel about you, what they think you're capable of, what they know, like, trust, all of that stuff, all that stuff that tends to fall into brand, client experience, and account management, all of that impacts whether you can sell someone, and whether you can keep clients. It comes down to this: perception is truth.

Now, if perception is truth—if you accept my premise, and I think you should because I've seen this time and time again—wow, that was kind of soapboxy, preachy, but let's just assume that you accept my premise that perception is truth. If you don't, I want to hear a comment. I want to know. You can head over to LinkedIn or Instagram, drop me a direct message, and let me know if you think differently. But if perception is truth, it begs the really important question: shouldn't we be working really hard to control how we are perceived?  

Shouldn't we put effort into that? Shouldn't this be a thing that we focus on? And again, if we think about the entire customer journey, the entire client journey, everything about their buying journey, and then the delivery part of it. So, for every step from the initial touchpoint where they first come across us, to making contact with us, or knowing us, or reaching out to us, bringing them into the sales process, to us working towards a close, to us closing this business, and then onboarding them as a client, to the customer experience that happens with the delivery—think about every single point of this, how we are perceived, which is again, extremely subjective. How we are perceived is the truth that the client has.

And so, I tend to ask the question of my team, of myself, and of the clients we work with: how do we want to be perceived? Right? Like, how do we want to be perceived? Ideally, we would want to show up the way our customers, our clients, and our prospects want us to show up. Right? Half of this is like dating. Like, half of it is you showing up to the first date being yourself, and the other half is you trying to figure out who you need to be in order to create a bond with the person you're looking to date. So, when you consider your brand, your marketing, your PR, your sales, your social media, your client experience, your account management, and whatever side of your business you're on when you think about it, there are a few ways that this really impacts your business, this idea that perception is truth. First of all, accept it, because it's the case. Secondly, what can we do to make this better?

We have to ask ourselves, how we want to be perceived, and then we can work through a framework of this. You know, it's part of a brand strategy process. And it's something that we help with, but you can literally just take out a piece of paper and ask yourself, write down the question, how do I want to be perceived? Do I want to be smart? Do I want to be fast? Do I want to be cheap? Or value-based, let's say cost-effective? Did I say cheap? You know, how do we want to be perceived? Because often, we as business leaders, entrepreneurs, and marketers, want to be good at everything, right? We want to be the greatest of all time in every single aspect of the business. I run a branding agency. So, do we want world-class design? Hell yes, we do. Do we want to be the most amazing people from a strategy point of view, market research, or competitor analysis? Of course, we do. Do we want to produce the very best copy possible? I'm telling you, I want to, but I also want the account management and the client experience. And I want the analytics and the data. And I also want to be able to have the greatest production team. That way, we can put out all of this and go through all of it. But when I look at it, we can't be world-class at everything. But we can be world-class at something. What is that thing? Who values it? How do I need to show up? And what perception? Because perception is truth. What perception do I need to be able to give them?

And once you get that defined on a piece of paper, how do I want to be perceived, you can then start to look at your business and your marketing. Often, this is the most mind-blowing part of when people work with us. We go, "Okay, you want to be perceived as smart. But let's look at your assets. Let's look at your brand, your photography, your video, how you answer the phones, or how you respond to emails." We want the greatest customer experience in the world. We want to be the best. We want to give the best client experience. Great. Are you super responsive? Are things canned? Are you answering questions? Are you guiding people through the process? Right, how you want to be perceived and how you are perceived—that gap, we need to close it. Because often how you are perceived is actually much lower than how awesome you really are. 

I've worked with hundreds of companies, and thousands of leaders. And very rarely is someone actually worse than they share. Very rarely are people overconfident or boastful, or just like hack jobs who are saying they're awesome when they're not. They exist. But for the people that I work with, that's not the case. Often, they're total badasses. They're absolutely amazing. They just don't talk about it. They do tons of R&D, but they don't share it. They do tons of work behind the scenes but don't tell the story to the prospects or clients about what they do, how they think, how they work, the ways that they've made investments in the past, the mistakes that they've made, what they've learned from it, all of the stuff that goes into great marketing, content marketing, and great stories. And the thing that fills hours and hours and hundreds of hours of podcasts all day, every day, people telling stories. So rarely do business leaders, marketers, and salespeople actually put this out there in big bold claims because they're afraid, for whatever reason, and that's fine. You don't have to, but just recognize that perception is truth. You know, over the weekend, I was working on our new homepage for Sales Loop. And I'm, I don't usually go like, "Man, I'm proud of this line." But you know, we're a branding agency, we help with positioning, we help with copywriting, we help people with a lot of things. So our work better be the best, right? Like, if we're going to do this, I can't do this "cobblers' kids have no shoes" thing. No, hell no, our work better be awesome. And I'm so excited about the new website that's going up. But we have this line on the homepage, which is, "You're not a market leader unless you look like one.

You're not a market leader unless you look like one." So, are you the best? Do you want to be a market leader? Do you actually want to be the goat? Do you want to get better talent? Do you want to build a better team? Do you want better customers? Do you want to hold on to customers for longer? Ask yourself, how are you being perceived? Put it under the microscope, look into it, question everything, put it under the microscope, question everything, and then work towards making the way you are perceived better. It will not only help you stand out from the crowd, it will not only help you stand out from the overwhelming crowd of noise that's out there. It will not only draw people in like this magnetic field, drawing them into your ecosystem, your universe, to the world that you are creating. But you will be able to generate higher qualified leads, you'll be able to work the leads so much better, and and you'll be able to move them to onboarding. And then you'll be able to retain these clients for much, much longer. But I'm asking you to scrutinize every aspect of the prospect, the client, and the customer experience—every single touchpoint—and ask yourself,

How do I want to be perceived? And am I being perceived the way that I want? And if you're not, let's fix it. And if you are, bravo! You've done it. Hats off, go fix something else in your business. And here's one last thing that I will leave you with when it comes to "perception is truth". The great thing is, if perception is truth and if you go back to that story about my daughter walking in and saying, "Dad, you're lying on the floor," and me saying, "No, I'm doing push-ups," and us both having a totally different idea of this—she didn't see anything that came the minutes before her walking in the room.

And if you have bad juju, or bad vibes, or bad press, or you feel like you've transitioned your company or your business, or you need to shake off the skeletons in the closet, here's the greatest thing. Often, we kind of bring all this bad energy into the next conversation, into the next marketing campaign, and the next thing we do, we just bring those bad vibes in. But the person is meeting us at this moment for the very first time, they have no idea of that stuff that happened before. They don't know all the bad stuff that happened. They're not aware of the negative things that happen unless you start to advertise and put it out there all the time.

And so this works for us, and it works against us. It works against us because we have to do the work to fill that person in on exactly who we are for them at that moment. But it also hides all the stuff that came before this. And we can use any moment as a new moment, as a brand-new moment, to show the world exactly who we are today. So I see this as a really awesome thing. I mean, of course, I'm in branding. It makes sense that it'd be awesome. I've dedicated my life to helping people figure out this way to show up, this perception in this moment, and then how to leverage it. But for me, it's exciting to know that I can go into a new room, a new market, a new group, a new product, a new brand, a new something, and kind of craft how we need to be perceived because that is truth. But at the same time, we can shake off any of that bad stuff that may have happened because frankly, we are all figuring this out as we go along. I've spoken to hundreds, and I've spoken to thousands of business people about these types of topics. And inevitably, I'm always struck with the fact that, damn, there's no roadmap to this. There's no plan for this. There's no way to figure this out. We are all making it up to the best of our abilities. We are learning from our mistakes, and we're all getting better for the next time it comes around. I know this isn't the tightest close ever. I hope you forgive me for that. But perception is truth. Let's get into the three-point roundup. Number one: Perception is truth. Number two: Ask yourself, how am I being perceived?

And if you're not being perceived the way that you want, fix it. And number three: Use the opportunity every single month, quarter—I mean, I don't know how often you're touching these things—but every time you dig down to say, "How am I being perceived?" and "Can I fix this?" use that opportunity to shake off the bad vibes of the past, and to show up with new energy, which is frankly, absolutely refreshing. If you're not feeling empowered, confident, excited, and invigorated by your brand, your marketing,, or the way that you're being perceived, then this can be fixed really, really quickly, actually. It can be fixed in a matter of weeks and months. And you can completely turn everything around because I've been through it with my own business. And we've taken far too many business owners and leaders through this process. And I've witnessed it time and time again, there's something exciting about fresh, new things. So 1, 2, 3, you have everything you need to be able to crack at this. But most of all, you and your team need to respect the fact that perception is truth. 

So, to wrap up, I want to thank you for listening. If you have thoughts on this, head over to LinkedIn, my profile, Mark Drager, and you can head over to @salesloopbrand on Instagram. You can send us a DM, let me know what you think, and jump into the conversation. And the last thing, if you've made it this far into the podcast, you probably should subscribe. And here's why. Every single week I share strategies and tactics just like these to be able to help you boost sales and grow revenue. With that, Mark Drager, we will catch you in the next episode.