How to make an impact: answer the “so what?” question

By: Todd Wagner

Buy, sell, plan and execute well and business success is sure to follow, right? Well, maybe.  The catch is that all these must be driven and measured by a common rallying cause.  Companies know this and spend a lot of time and money developing things like mission statements and core values. There’re pulled out for training, “big event” planning and show and tell time with shareholders. If we’re honest, our best intended, lighthouse-in-a-storm vision statements have little impact on much of the team and can be vague to customers. This is because they often lack the “so what?” factor. Do you have a cause that customers and employees will enthusiastically support? Or after meetings are people left with, “so what makes this relationship right?”

The first part of my career was in various engineering roles where the common thought was that the best product would win. Just show them the spec’s and game over. Next I moved into sales and was told to leave people with something to remember you by, figure out who the decision makers are and what the buy decision(s) will be. Finally, present the best case accordingly. Arriving at the right “so what?” was a process of qualifying prospects, etc, etc.

In today’s world of global competition, on-line information and busier than ever schedules, it’s best to handle the “so what?” by starting with it. If you want to have an impact, start by letting people know that you want to hear about their biggest concern (you could tailor this to your field) and see if you or someone you know can help. Listen, ask questions and come away with knowing the answer to “so what can we do to really make your life better?” Take steps that matter to your customers, deliver on your promises and make sure to follow-up to see that the results —at minimum— have met expectations.

Build on results by paying attention to common themes relevant to your expertise and develop your role around it. Share results with your team so that they can understand how your company is making a difference, not just how they are making a profit.

The most energized people I know are ones who have aligned their passions with their purpose and their purpose with improving someone else’s life.  What are you doing today?  So what?  Are you making a difference?

Oak Hill Business Partners is a professional services firm serving small and mid-sized businesses.  Oak Hill provides Growth Management Services, Mergers & Acquisitions Support, and Turnaround Solutions.

Todd Wagner is a Strategic Partner of Oak Hill Business Partners specializing in strategic planning and sales.

Posted by Erik Owen