Be The Guide Not the Hero

Why do we feel compelled to play the hero and not the guide?

We’ve all sat through those sales pitches: you know the one’s: first slide is ‘our story’, next is all about us, here’s our brand portfolio, these are our products & services, this is our process, here’s why we’re better than everyone else.

“Choose us because we’ve worked with Virgin” .

(Every sales pitch I’ve ever listened to has included the white ‘V’ on the ‘Clients we’ve worked with’ page).

Of course as the prospect, your logo bottom sits bottom right on every slide. Sadly that’s usually all that has changed when the same deck was delivered yesterday to another prospect.

And the day before that.

I was guilty of using the very same approach until I realised my time-precious, savvy audience had sat through five other similar presentations. The audience was bored and totally disinterested, letting their minds wander and day dream.

Day dreaming is when our brains are present, but not engaged. It’s totally natural to day dream. It’s our brains way of conserving energy. Imagine your brain in ‘Alexa-mode’: still listening and waiting for a signal to pique their interest and wake them up. It must have been so tedious for the audience to sit through five versions of the same self-aggrandising bullshit. It never happened again.

What is it about sales pitches that organisations feel we the potential client needs to know every tooth and nail about their process, and their revolutionary new ‘B0LX24’ implementation? It’s definitely a legacy approach that may have worked well throughout the late 20th century when swagger and bluster gained support and won deals.

But that was the 20th century.

Should we feel compelled to list our achievements and play the hero?

We’ve been conditioned to impress through CVs, job applications, bios and silverback sales decks to make us stand out. It’s the equivalent in the animal world of puffing out our chests and fanning our tail feathers. Such exhibitionism makes animal species look bigger and better. 

“Look at my impressive plumage. Choose me!”

Listing our credentials is perceived to simply build our credibility. 

“Look at me. Look at my list of achievements. This is how successful I’ve been.”

But it’s wrong. 

And the world has already changed. We don’t have the time or energy to stare at slide after slide of ‘look at me’. We’re working faster and need answers. We need answers that keep us up with the herd so we don’t fall behind. We need answers that keep us delivering and our peers respecting us. We need answers to clearly convey our message, making us stand out from the same old ‘look at me’ sales decks.

We’re desperately looking for a guide who cuts through the bull and tells us straight.

Think back to when you’ve sat in a sales pitch or when someone is persuading you to buy something. You can feel the connection, an almighty relief, and you smile when we know that person understands us. They know our pain, they’ve taken time to get to know what we need without bragging about their service. Their detailed process how they deliver, comes later once we’re curious.

Pique your audience with that same curiosity.

It’s the animal world equivalent of puffing out our chests and fanning our tail feathers.

Business moves even faster now. Once we recognise we have a scratch to itch, we’ve already researched a solution and garnered knowledge before we even speak with a vendor. We know the provider can deliver what we the client needs, but do they really understand our business?

…some of us need to play the part of the guide to help our heroes.

For the world we live in today, we don’t need more heroes, it’s the polar opposite behaviour we need.

And here’s why.

Not everyone can be the hero. That’s why we need a guide.

We need someone who is looking out for us. Someone to take us by the hand and lead the way, who can show us the right direction. A guide who says:

“I recognise your problem. I understand what you need. We’ve been here before and we know how to do it. Everything is going to be ok.” 

It’s a significant paradigm shift to make this change but it’s what the world needs. We can’t all be heroes. Guides help heroes succeed. Imagine a world where everyone is a hero. A world of heroes looking for an answer to their problem without anyone to show them the way. 

“…the clever approach is to position yourself as the guide rather than feeling compelled to play the hero.”

Heroes achieve success because they have guides around them. It may have been their teams, their mentors or a vendor that really understands them. Guides show them the way and visualise what success looks like. 

Make your next conversation about them, not you.

Next time you have a conversation or asked to a build a sales deck, position yourself as the guide rather than feeling compelled to play the hero. Whether your next audience is a group or an individual, make the conversation about them, not you.

Listen to your audience to understand what they need to solve their problem, and show them the way. 

Why do we still feel compelled to play the hero and not the guide?

Don’t be the Hero. 
Be The Guide. 

Foot Note to the Main Image:

Sherpa Tenzing Norgay accompanied Sir Edmund Hilary to the successful summit of Everest on May 29th, 1953.

Hillary recalled in his book, High Adventure, near the summit they discovered soft snow. “Immediately I realised we were on dangerous ground,”

“Suddenly, with a dull breaking noise, an area of crust all around me about six feet in diameter broke off.”

The man who saved him from a fall to his death was Tenzing Norgay, whose axes kept the men tethered to the mountain, enabling Hillary, the man who would eventually admit to reaching the top of Everest first.

Every Hero needs a Guide.

James Pogson is a Brand Story Telling Guide, trained in effective communication, with years of marketing & sales experience.

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