Where to Start

If you have something to sell me, like a solution, a product, a service, an idea, a strategic plan or anything of that sort, I suggest that you resist the temptation to tell me everything about you and your stuff for as long as you can.

Don’t tell me what it is yet, and why it’s so great. Wait before you go all-in with arguments like world-class, award-winning, internationally recognized, proven, road-tested, or number one.

Instead, show some empathy, and focus on me.

This will make me want you and your stuff more, because as humans, what matters is context, the setup, just like foreplay when we have sex.

As my fellow countryman, Voltaire said so well, “The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.”

So, don’t do that. Don’t tell everything. At least not right away.

Instead, do a bit of a striptease.

Your clients don’t buy your solution. They buy an understanding of their own problem. Show them that you understand.

Instead of starting with your solution, product, service, idea, strategic plan or anything of that sort, here is what to do:

1 - Start with the setup

Open with something everyone can relate to. Reframe what we want most. Engage us through images and perhaps a metaphor that grounds our desires. Frame the story from our point of view, not yours. Engage us in what the future looks like, and what getting there is going to take.

Tease our imagination with something like “Imagine you could order anything from your phone”. That would be the setup of the Amazon pitch at the beginning of the last decade.

Use a character that could be us: “John is 47 and he really wants to be more in shape.” That would be for a gym.

2 - Then, frame the struggle

Nobody cares how great your plan is until they first know why a plan is needed in the first place. For that, there is nothing better than framing a problem. Drama makes things interesting. Humans pay attention to problems. If there is no drama, people don’t pay attention to.

Why do you watch the news? Why will your kids make you read little red riding hood fifty times? For the thrill that they get when they meet the villain.

Make a list of the mistakes we might run into and what those mistakes will cost us. Be specific with the details.

If you’re a data analytics company similar to the one I helped raise millions last year with a better strategic story, frame the struggle that your clients will run into: millions in loss of revenue, bad reputation, disengaged staff, etc.

3 - Finally, the solution

This part typically comes easily for the CEOs and executive leaders I help.

Keep it brief. Show us what it looks like, give us a summary of the features and an example of what it does.

I teach an online training workshop called the Bigger Story. It’s about how to craft a strategic story to drive more profit and engagement. When I ask participants who should be the hero of their strategic story, the majority of them answer with “us”, “our product”. No, the hero is your client, your people, your investors, anyone but you (it depends on the situation). Don’t start with you, start with them.

Your success hinges on why what you have to say matters deeply to people, not just why your idea is the best. Start there.

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