It’s a simple question, but one that is often hard for people to answer. Instead of asking someone what they do, I ask, “How do you help people?” It may seem confusing because most people assume I’m asking about volunteer efforts, as in, “Do you help little old ladies cross the street?”
However, the question is aimed at getting to understand how the work we do helps someone else. Every organization – business, nonprofit, government – exists to help someone in some way. In this two-sided interaction, we tend to focus only on our part of that exchange.
When I ask someone how they help people through their work, they start listing the different things their job entails: meetings, work projects, reports, conferences, HR reviews, annual reports, etc. It still doesn’t answer the question.
Turn it around. What do people get when doing business with you? Most people answer with: We sell them “X” product or “Y” service. Mostly, they see the transaction.
For example, an accountant might answer, “We do their taxes and their record keeping.” It still doesn’t answer the question, “How does that help people?”
This takes a little digging to understand and look at it from the customer’s point of view. Other than the product or service, what do they get out of doing business with you?
In the case of the accountant, a customer might get a sense of security knowing that their taxes were done correctly, their records are accurate and their profit clear. This is how the accountant helps her or his customers.
Why is that important?
We get lost in the daily litany of things we do at work every day. What is today’s assignment? What’s on my things-to-do-today list? What’s my quota for this quarter? But, that’s not where the organization makes its profits. It makes its profit when it helps customers. Your work may contribute to that, but is that where your mind is?
Understanding and focusing on that is what keeps customers coming back. Customers don’t come just because you’re selling a product or a service. They come back because they feel they’re getting something important. Beyond the product or service, what is it that you hope or think that your customer feels when they do business with you?
How do you help people? Do a little digging to figure it out for your situation.
It is a change of mindset and perspective. Instead of just putting your title on your business card, list how you help people and organizations. That really is what you and your organization are selling. That is how you make a profit or achieve your goals. Let people know that. It’s a major selling point – and an essential mindset shift.