Your Greatest Differentiator: Why You Should Build Your Pitch Around Your People


Last week at our Wednesday team dinner, I was reminded that I have a profound love for my co-workers.

That’s not a statement I make lightly or as a dramatic platitude. Of course, we all disappoint, annoy or anger each other at times. Yet last week they moved me to tears because I care so much about them and our shared purpose. Something powerful and transcendent exists amongst us.

The dinner had turned into a series of spontaneous toasts to each other. Each person stood voluntarily—the extroverts and introverts, the full-time and part-timers, even the husband and 11-year old son of one team member who joined us.

“You all make me laugh.”
“I trust you deeply.”
“You are family.”
“You support me.”

My heart was full of joy and pride, not just because it felt good, but because it makes us a higher quality, more productive and more innovative organization. In fact, the following night, we were recognized as the top performing provider of Dale Carnegie Training offerings in North America.

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Like most people probably do, when someone asks me what’s different about our products and services, I quickly list features and benefits—proven, high quality, customized, cost-effective, etc. Perhaps it’s time we consider subordinating those features (which, after all, our competitors claim, too) and declare our most powerful feature and benefit:

The people who work in our company care about each other and our purpose.

That’s what makes us excellent. That’s what transfers to value to our customers. As employee engagement expert Bob Kelleher says, “It’s no longer just what you do and why you do it, but who you are that engages your stakeholders.”

What if your and my greatest product differentiation in the market was our people?

Here are three ways to do it:

1. Create it. Research shows that, regardless of size or market, organizations with higher employee engagement levels far outperform their peers over time. According to recent studies, the top three drivers of engagement are pride in the organization, belief in senior leaders and relationship with immediate supervisor. Call me if you want help developing those three.

2. Celebrate it. Culture is defined by what is celebrated. As you’re planning your next company conference, consider what gets more focus on stage: product or people. In your next team meeting, consider what’s affirmed: to-do’s or to-be’s. What we celebrate internally translates to how we justify our value proposition externally.

3. Declare it. I recently attended a presentation from the director of learning and culture at Green Mountain Coffee, the makers of Keurig. She proudly declared and provided evidence that their people—from the executive team to the forklift operators in the factories to their growers around the world—are truly equal in priority to profit and environmental sustainability. It was a moving experience to see her conviction and practical application. She never said a word about product differentiators, and she gained several hundred new fans of Green Mountain Coffee.

Selling something? Building something? Raising money for something? For best results, build your pitch around your people.

Please comment here with a declaration of how your organization (or one you are connected to) creates and celebrates its people.

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