What does your company do?

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What does your company do?
“It’s Not about the Bike” — the title of Lance Armstrong’s excellent autobiography.

Becoming a world class cyclist requires far more than the bike. Strategy, practice sessions, workouts, diet, and mental aspects impact performance far beyond the equipment.

The implications of his statement occurs to me every day. For example, too often people think a software system will solve their business problem.

Another is the way sales people answer the typical customer question: “what does your company do?”

There are two perspectives that can direct the response: the vendor perspective and the customer perspective. Sales people often fixate on their products or services. They think customers are as interested in key features as are they.

Customers are actually asking one of two questions. They may be asking the product or service question so they can attempt to self-diagnose. Have you ever heard a customer respond to a product oriented introduction, “oh, we don’t need that”?

I choose to hear the question this way: “what problems that I might have does your company address?” This is a more productive question for both customer and sales person.

With new sales people it takes extensive coaching and practice to get them to maintain a disciplined response this way. I’ve found using the bike theme to be a useful way to reinforce this discipline.

Consider a company that sells video production. The customer’s question could be answered, “we provide custom video production services.” Pretty typical, right? Very undifferentiated.

By applying the principle, it’s not about the bike, this vendor could consider the other elements of video production that could be stressed to communicate a more differentiated value. This could include expertise around specific topics, style, or purpose of video products. It could be a particular style, technical expertise or process that provides value to customers. Most powerfully, it could address the underlying customer problem or objectives with an insightful association to the expertise.

As I write this I’m looking out the window at the company in the adjacent building. There are eight black limosines lined up outside. The company provides lasik eye surgery. It occurs to me I regularly hear radio advertisements from many providers of this kind of surgery. This company has applied the principle it’s not about the bike by providing limosine delivery as a standard part of their service.

There are many different applications of this theme. Apply it to your situation or business to make better decisions or to help your customers make better decisions.