As soon as I published the Six Essentials to GSD, I received a lot of feedback on which of the six essentials (aka Benisms) I should expand on first. The one that topped the list? “Take people on the journey with you.”

One reason this Benism seems to resonate so strongly is the many professional (and personal) situations we find ourselves in where we’re doing something big—and we can’t do it alone:

  • We just stepped into a new job.
  • We’re rolling out a new strategy.
  • We need to create a breakout story.
  • We’d like to install a stunning stone pavement on the patio in time for summer. *

Each of these situations can be viewed as a journey, and there are dozens of other examples that are all variations on these themes. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll focus on journey as it relates to creating a breakout story—a story that rises above the noise in your market while aligning marketing and sales to close deals faster.

As a coach, one of the fun parts of my job is that I get to hear a lot of stories! People are either asking for a quick reaction to their current story OR they’re seeking my help in “telling and selling” a more compelling story. I often begin new projects by asking a client to tell me their current story. Why? Because there are some markers I’m looking for and—like a poker player’s “tell” —these markers often point to the problem.

Three things i always hear

With rare exception, the stories I hear typically make the following three claims:

1.     We have the best product.

2.     We have great customers.

3.     We provide awesome service.

Having a solid product, real customers, and a reputation for great service are all important.  However, in a crowded market—and at this point, what market isn’t crowded?—your 242** competitors will often claim these same three capabilities. The result? There’s nothing memorable for a potential customer to hang on to! I remind sales teams all the time: If all you do is show up and say “product, customers, and service” you’ll sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown.

 

For those of you who just read the above and are thinking “But Ben, our product really IS the best and our customers really DO love us,” please take a deep breath, let go, and keep reading.

Three Things I Rarely Hear

If products, customers, and service are relatively equal—and, quite frankly, expected by your target audience—what provides true differentiation? It starts with the three things I usually don’t hear:

1.     Our mission is…

2.     Our point of view is…

3.     The outcomes we deliver are…

What really matters—what will differentiate you—is the story behind the journey you are on. It should include the ‘why’ of what you do (your mission), the expertise that makes you the authority in your market (your point of view), and how your mission and point of view drive outcomes for your customers.

Taking people on your journey

Earlier this year I attended the SaaStr Annual Conference in San Francisco. Dharmesh Shah, founder and CTO of marketing juggernaut Hubspot, drove the point home when he said, “You have to have a point of view that you can pitch outside of features.”

I tweeted “I could hug @dharmesh for that #greatquote.” Dharmesh wasn’t the only presenter sharing some great nuggets with the crowd. Check out my post-conference blog for 12 more essential quotes.

I’ll close with this reminder: People follow stories as much as they follow leaders—perhaps even more so. The combination of noisy markets and fast business cycles make story and journey more important than ever. If you’re not taking people on the journey with you, you’re leaving them behind.

Sound like a big order? Stay tuned. Part Two will focus on the “how.” If you’re a subscriber, you’ll automatically receive Part Two in your inbox as soon as it’s published. Not a subscriber? Sign up today! Also, if you want to book a one-on-one jam session with me where we can talk about how to get you or your company unstuck and moving forward, please e-mail me at ben@thebenkikergroup.com

 

* A timely personal example of a situation requiring me to bring someone on the journey to get to my desired outcome.

** My favorite number to use when driving home the point of how all markets have become crowded.