I'm Screaming At The Top Of My Lungs

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I was seated in the back corner of a coffee shop desperately attempting to focus on crafting an email response. But, it just wasn't happening, the noise and commotion kept pulling me away. Most of it was emanating from one group. In a recent effort to make coffee shops more communal, many have installed long thin counter top tables strategically designed to fit two laptops, lid to lid. Brilliant for two co-workers sitting across from one another working on a project. However, they are a little less effective for a large group where the participants at either end are approximately the same distance from one another as what a football needs to travel for a team to earn a first down.

Seated at this table was a gaggle of local elderly gentleman all of whom had their best hearing days behind them. Neither distance nor their struggle to hear appeared to curb their enthusiasm. Each member was doing his best to share his latest ailment or comment on the ills of society. As I sat there, now scouring the internet for a deal on noise canceling headphones, the thought occurred to me that what I was witnessing was completely analogous to what I see so many companies trying to do. Companies, through their varied marketing efforts, try to talk over one another in the hopes that their voice is heard by their ideal customer.

Neither distance nor their struggle to hear appeared to curb their enthusiasm. Each member was doing his best to share his latest ailment or comment on the ills of society.

I threw in the towel and closed the lid of my laptop and headed out the door to catch the train into the city. The train was packed, and I was forced to stand. Again, I was overwhelmed by the noise. There was just a constant din of individual conversations, music, and the occasional sneeze, snort, or cough. Yet, I noticed that I kept gravitating to one voice. It wasn't the loudest, and I can't say why I was drawn to it, it was just different. Another thought occurred to me, yep two in one day, this is what companies should be doing. They should stop trying to be heard above everyone else and focus instead on being heard between them. I will explain.

25 plus years ago, as a newly minted sales person, I was making my first call with my manager. He asked if I had brought product samples with me. I told him I hadn't. "Son", he said, "This is a show and tell business". 25 years ago that may have been sage advice, but in today's knowledge-based economy, it is not shiny objects or features and benefits that sell. It is knowledge. Today, that same sales manager might tell me,"Son, this is a know and tell business".

In today's knowledge-based economy, it is not shiny objects or features and benefits that sell. It is knowledge.

Companies can be heard between all the noise if they know their story and know how to effectively tell it. Let me be clear, a company's story is not about the company! Rather, it is about the needs, wants, challenges and goals of the customer, and how the company's goods or services are best suited to help them. We all like to talk about ourselves, and companies are no different. But, your customers don't care about your dedication to excellence, your commitment to innovation, or your proprietary technology. Country singer Toby Keith had a hit song titled "I want to talk about me", and that is exactly what your customers want. So ask questions and listen.

This is a know and tell business. In order to be successful, a company needs to know its story, which is the intersection between the customer's needs, wants, challenges and goals, and the company's goods and services. Then, the company needs to know how to tell it in a way that is compelling and convincing, in a manner, that resonates with the customer. In a way that they connect what they are hearing to their own thoughts and worries. Companies that do that, can stop screaming at the tops of their lungs and actually be heard between all the noise.

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If this article speaks to you, please become a beta reader for my upcoming book "The 90-Year-Old Start Up". I am trying something different, a novel that is both a business book and a good story. Your insight and feedback would be very valuable.

I serve as a thinking partner, providing my clients with the clarity, focus, and tools they need to make good people and product decisions. I help my clients tell their stories and build relationships with their customers. I enable their leaders to better connect and communicate with those whom they lead. Thanks for reading -- Elliot Begoun

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