Once upon a time (many years ago) there was a renowned Physics professor who traveled around the country giving lectures about his astounding findings. He didn’t like to fly so he had a chauffer who would drive him from town to town to present his lectures.
The chauffer would sit in the back of the room and listen to the lecture before driving the professor to the next destination. Over the course of several months, the chauffer had heard the professor’s speech dozens of times. The professor was completely consistent in the way he presented his material. He’d bring in new material—as appropriate—on occasion, but his presentation was always consistent. Sometimes the professor and his driver would even talk about it in the car.
One day the chauffer (who had developed a good relationship with the professor) commented with a grin, “Professor, I’ve heard your presentation so many times that I think I could deliver it myself!”
Amused by the idea, the professor said, “Why not? Nobody knows me in the next town and I’d like to test your hypothesis!” So before they went into the auditorium in the next town, the professor donned the chauffer’s hat and coat and the driver slipped on the professor’s tweed jacket.
The professor sat in the back of the room and watched in bemused fascination as the chauffer delivered a flawless presentation and received a standing ovation. But there was a Masters candidate in the audience who wanted to impress the rest of the attendees asked the speaker a most complicated and difficult question about the content of the speech.
The chauffer didn’t even understand the question—much less how to answer, but without missing a beat replied, “Your question is so elementary and obvious, that I’m going to ask my driver to answer it!”
What does that tall tale have to do with your business today? I think this story illustrates two important business principles.
- Consistency in messaging is extremely powerful. As a business leader, it’s important that you communicate your vision, purpose, and value proposition clearly and consistently—whether you’re talking to customers, analysts, industry experts, or your own employees. You may be the one who the company relies on to articulate the company vision and value to outsiders, but imagine the multiplied impact if every one of your employees could communicate those things as clearly as you do because they’ve heard you do it so consistently over and over.
- Parrots are lousy spokespersons. This is where the professor/chauffer analogy breaks down. It’s a fun story, but if it had really been up to the chauffer to talk about his position it would have been a disaster. In your business you don’t want employees who simply parrot the company line. They need to understand what the message is and what it means. And they need to understand why that matters. Your employees (whether they are in sales or marketing or any other position) can’t simply be walking brochures. They need to have an understanding of the issues your clients face and be able to articulate how your products or services address those issue.
What’s the take-away? Make sure your message is compelling and consistent. And make sure your employees understand how it relates to the specific issues your clients face.
By the way, if you have a favorite “business parable,” I’d love to hear it! Leave me a note in the comments section below!