When Cal Fussman wears his consultant cap, he helps companies complete this sentence: “when people come to my business, they come because _______.” He says we would be amazed at how many people can’t answer this basic question. Why is that?
Yuval Noah Harari wrote, “humans think in stories rather than facts, numbers or equations.” The problem for most of us is that even if we don’t think in facts, numbers, or equations, we are perpetually either being measured by or measuring ourselves in this way. What grade did you get on the test? How big is the bonus going to be? What will I owe on taxes? These are all measurement questions with a story in the background.
Ask a person about the game last night or the ballet they just saw, and we’ll hear an emotional narrative. The story is firmly in the foreground. Ask them about what their company is working on and you’ll like get a much more formulaic answer. Cal’s prompt recognizes this is the problem. We have to put the story where it belongs: front and center. Nobody wants to just hear about the data.
People don’t come because of the superior results, the white-glove service, or whatever other fancy data points the marketing materials may claim. The people come because some aspect of what we do makes them feel better. There’s a story in that feeling that we have to tease out.
When we drill down further into the grade on the test, the amount of the bonus, and what the taxes are, we start to uncover the underlying story. Why did the grade matter and who did it matter the most to? What would a big bonus be for and what are you scared of if the bonus is small? What happened with taxes before to make you ask this question? The key is the questions.
When people come to our business it’s not just for a fact, number, or equation. There’s a story they’re telling themselves and a story we are telling them. The better we align those stories, the easier it will be for them to not only see value in what we provide but also tell somebody else about it. If we make the stressful and confusing world simple, we should say that that is our goal for them. And then we should remind them of it. Often.
We should all be able to answer Cal’s prompt. Our story is our most valuable asset.