Sell people the what, not the how

“If you have a problem, if no-one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire….”

No, not The A-Team. A good facilitator.

How do we prove the value of facilitators? Pic from Martin Gilbraith.
How do we prove the value of facilitators? Pic from Martin Gilbraith.

Where’s your next good idea coming from? How can you get your team to work together better? What direction should you be heading in and how can you overcome inertia? How can you tell your story so other people will listen?

If you find a good facilitator, you can tackle all these problems and more. You’ll feel like you’re making progress, getting your lightbulb moments. We – the facilitators – get a buzz from helping and the chance of repeat business. Win-win situation, no?

So why have I found it so hard to describe what I do and so hard to prove the value of a good facilitator?

Well, thanks to last Saturday’s gathering of the International Association of Facilitators I now have a clue. I got too close to the work, got too excited about the tools I’ve learned to use in the last five years. But there’s no point trying to sell people on how I would help them (for example, what tool I’d use in a workshop), because that’s just too technical.

They want to know what I can help them with, more specifically what problem I can help them solve. They don’t really care how I do it, so long as it works. And they won’t be searching online for solutions they don’t know exist yet – they’ll be searching based on the problems they’ve got.

Sell the what, not the howOur little IAF group set out to answer a specific question: how do we prove the value of what facilitators do? In the process, we reached this main insight: you have to understand how you’re going to help someone, but you should sell yourself based on what you can help them with. 

We also hit on some neat ways of demonstrating value:

  • Always get testimonials from happy customers
  • Use a “Before and After” survey to test attitudes in the group
  • Show how many repeat bookings you get (and don’t forget the ones you’ve helped so much they don’t need you to come back any more)
  • Ask your group to send you evidence of progress/impact a few weeks or months down the line
  • Use a live “trailer question” during the session to measure your impact
  • Make a video or photo record of your session, capturing the moment and its positive feelings
  • Set up a Facebook or LinkedIn group so the conversation runs on after your session
  • Tell your work like a story (but beware, you are not the hero of this story, your client is)
  • “Wrap up” your products based on the problems you can solve, not the techniques you can use

Based on that last point, I have totally redesigned my website landing page, so thanks Gary Austin for that bit of advice.

Here’s a link to two storytelling techniques which may help you tell stories where your client is the hero:

Credit: photo by Martin Gilbraith


1 thought on “Sell people the what, not the how

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s