This past weekend my wife and I had the good fortune to see a live production of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. Garrison and his crew are very funny people, sometimes because they are way out on the edge and others because they are true to point when making fun of American culture.
One of the skits they did was about a mythical organization of English teachers counseling a young job seeker who bordered on the hysterical. After appropriate coaching, the young woman could string together modern business jargon with the best. I suppose I laughed immoderately because the young woman’s answer to the dreaded “5 year” question sounded scarily familiar.
Whether you are the executive of a large company, an entrepreneur or a job-seeker, it is important for the health of your business, startup or job search to be able to express what you do clearly and in particular, to state the benefit clearly. People don’t really care that much about titles or past history; what they want to know is how your intervention will benefit them. The 3 things to remember are: tell a good story, have the right to tell your story and state clearly the benefit of what you or your company does for the client.
Tell a good story: a good story always has a proper structure; a main character, a beginning, narrative, conflict and resolution. Many of you remember that from English Lit 101. When speaking about your business, your business is the main character and the narrative is about your potential client. The conflict is the problem or area of pain that the potential client is experiencing and resolution is how you will help the potential client overcome the problem.
If told well, a good story will reverberate with the listeners who hear their own story. In the case of a potential client, a good story will lead them to say, “That person really understands what I am going through!”
Have the right to tell the story: a good story exudes authenticity. In order to tell a good story you must have a real connection to the story. A story that is truly your own will have substance to it; you will have the authority about you that people will respond to! Having the right to tell the story will enable you to create a vivid image that will be fixed in a person’s mind.
State the Benefit Clearly: always state what you or your company does in terms of the benefit. If the mission of your company is to help other companies improve their operations and lower costs, you might express the benefit be saying, “We help companies improve their bottom line”, for example. A person that I met recently, who had years of experience as an office administrator explained that her benefit was to “Analyze and organize to make you more efficient.” Of course, you must avoid the trap of falling onto the latest business jargon. When you indulge in jargon, you risk having the listener not understand what you are talking about, and feeling that you may not know either.
Following these three tips can help lead you down the road to clarity!