During my first week of post-holiday business, it seems one particular theme emerged with my clients, more than anything else – the theme of becoming good at “telling our story.” Successful business people can always tell others the story of their business (which is not always literally a story), in terms far beyond, “we sell supplies to restaurants” or “we deliver packages.” The story of business needs to be grounded in purpose, needs to be fueled by energy and enthusiasm and has to draw in the company brand and brand promises that set the business apart from its competitors. Finally, it has to be about the value the customer or buyer will experience, not about the business itself.
One of my clients this week was a four-man executive team, embarking on its first ever two-day strategic planning event. On the morning of our second day together, it was a lot of fun having each member of the team come up to the podium to deliver a three to five minute presentation on an aspect of the company. This was brand new for these gentlemen, to be zeroing in on and simulating a public presentation on these key components of their business. As I watched, I saw the confidence increase in each of the team members. Practicing in this way gave the whole team something to build from, which was powerful. It was one step of many necessary steps for this executive team to build their story or narrative, and learn how to tell it to others.
Another client, two young men in business together that I have been working with for almost a year, wrote an email to me between Christmas and New Year’s, stating, “we need a clearly defined and easily articulated story and the one we have been using sucks! Read the about us on our website. The problem I see is it’s about us and not about our customer. The customer doesn’t care about us especially the ones that don’t know us, don’t think they need us and think they have everything covered (new prospect that we have no relationship with). It needs to be fully about them. This company has one goal and one purpose and that solving problems and making their lives easier and we need to be able to properly articulate that while being able to deliver it at the same.”
I loved getting this email. Of course I have coached this client on the importance of this for many, many months. Each client is different however in terms of when and through what mechanism they transform and are ready to take on new actions. Good coaching means I dance with them, and although I poke, prod and challenge throughout, I have to recognize the client will act when they are ready. Of course I have been frustrated at times with this client in terms of how long it has taken them to be ready to act more fully in this regard, but it sure was refreshing to have the entire coaching session this past week focused on getting the story right. The light came on for these two businessmen, and now they are ready to get their story right. They finally reached a point in their development where they determined that having and being equipped to tell their story is absolutely essential.
My favorite story from the week comes from a coaching session with a middle-aged entrepreneur doing a business startup. She reported to me that just before Christmas she was in her hair stylist’s chair. While getting her hair done, she told the story of her business (her value proposition) to her stylist. The hair stylist reported back that over the years she has had multiple individuals in her chair who provide a similar professional service to that of my client, but nobody has ever conveyed their business story with so much clarity and passion. The stylist was blown away at the power of my client’s story, and as a direct result, the stylist quickly introduced my client to her husband, for purposes of hiring my client to deliver the professional service.
If your business story and value proposition are not crystal clear to you, it will be foggy for your customers. As I often say, “as mist in the executive team is a fog in the market.”
If it is time for you to improve upon your value proposition, here are some prerequisites you must consider:
- You must absolutely be certain of your own personal values and your own life purpose
- You must be clear on your company core values and purpose
- You must have a value proposition that has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with the value your clients will get from doing business with you. Stated differently, you are communicating how their situation will be improved as a result of doing business with you.
I challenge you to ask yourself these critical questions:
- How powerful are our brand and our story?
- Can everyone in the company communicate our value proposition with clarity?
- Are all of our staff equipped to talk in terms of value to the customer, rather than about us and our methodologies?
- Is our story something that resonates for staff, connects to our values and matters in the marketplace?
If any of these are in doubt, it is time for you to get your team together and do some work!