Be The Guide - Not The Victim
Donald Miller is an author and businessman who helps organizations tell better stories. His message is that, in a business world that’s full of noise and clutter, the only way to cut through is to tell stories and engage your audience - in any type of setting.
One of his key themes is that there are really 4 key roles you can play in any story - hero, villain, guide or victim. When you’re trying to get your message across, you definitely don’t want to be the villain of the story (that goes without saying), but you don’t want to be the hero either. The hero is always your target audience - if you try to be the hero, you’re automatically in conflict.
Instead, you need to become the guide - someone who may have been the hero in a past story but, having been through and learnt from that experience, is now here to impart that knowledge to help the current hero of the story, your customer.
That makes a lot of sense. Far too often, we tend to want to be the hero in a sales situation. Let me tell you how great I am. Let me show you my credentials. Look at all my success. That’s great as backstory to bolster your credentials as to why you can and should be the guide, but it can’t be the focus of your story. You are not the focus. Your past success is important (because it gives you credibility) but its prime value is as support for the discussion about how you can help. Instead, talk less, listen more and be the guide.
Above all, Miller says, if you don’t make that choice, you’re the victim. You’re the character whose only purpose for being there is as the fodder (the kill) that provides the hero with the chance to become the hero. In other words, you’re not central to the story, and you’re ineffective.
It’s great advice - far too often, we focus on ourselves when telling the story, thinking we’re impressing the audience. For example, how many sales decks do you see that start with who the company is and what they’ve done and why they’re so great? Thing is, who cares?
Don’t start with you. Start with me and my problems. Tell me why you’re here, the problem you’re trying to solve, the help you can provide. That’s what matters.
So make clear choices. Be thoughtful about the audience, the customer. They’re the hero.
Don’t be the victim. Be the guide.