When I do workshops with clients to build their compelling go to market story, we always start the pre-session survey with what seems like a simple question : “What are the 1 or 2 big picture problems you help customers solve?”

But it ends up really smart teams, whether product teams, technical founders, marketers and even sales execs are really bad at answering this question. In fact, across dozens of engagements and hundreds of answers, I’d give my clients a collective grade of about C-!  And that’s mostly because they simply don’t answer the question.  So before we think about why they do so poorly, let’s take a look at the typical (poor or wrong) answers that we get, and there are three…

#1 – They confuse what they do with why they do it.   Answers like – “We deliver a network based solution that protects this or that with this or that feature.”  Or  “We give them a xyz with perfect precision”, as if an optician’s answer would be “we give them glasses with the correct prescription”

#2 – They aim too high or too low – They can’t find that sweet spot between not-credible and not-meaningful.  Either they say, “We solve world hunger” or “We sweep crumbs off the table”.  With one you won’t be believed, with the other no one will care

#3 – They simply don’t know – Answers like a list of features, or a jargon filled ramble or a technical dissertation.  While less common, this is often the case.

I think 2 things are going on here.  First, they simply lack a structure that helps them formulate the problem statement.  Here’s what I use.  For WHO, who needs to SOLVE/DO WHAT.

And second and more telling, especially at start-ups, they simply are obsessed with their product.  They know the features and benefits, and they know the how, but they don’t spend enough time thinking about the why.

Recently, I partnered with Unusual Ventures as an instructor at their start-up Academy, which is now taking applications.  Jyoti Bansal, the founder of App Dynamics and Unusual was quoted last month in Entrepreneur Magazine as saying,

“A lot of people have good ideas — but it’s often those with the best stories who are able to set themselves apart. Turning your idea into a story — one that identifies the need, why it’s imminently important to solve it, why you have the winning solution and why you’re the person to bet on, is key to setting your company up for success.”

But before you can tell your story, the first step is to identify and state the problem you solve. Once you do that, a whole world of possibility opens up to you and your solution.

My problem statement is simple, “I help B2B companies who need to dramatically improve sales and marketing breakthrough and effectiveness in order to capture and grow market leadership.”  That’s it. I’d love to help you to find yours, and then spin your story around it.  To be a market leader, they first thing you need to do is get an A+ in defining the problem you solve for your customer.  C- just won’t cut it.

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