I recently did an interview with an industry “Sales” journal. It went well, right up to the end when the interviewer asked, “Where do you see Storyleaders in 5 years?” I wasn’t prepared at all for that question. It was one of those questions that put me on the spot, so my response was, “I have no idea where Storyleaders be in 5 years. Hopefully changing the way salespeople sell…”
The interview ends and everything was fine. But a little while later, it wasn’t fine. I hated my stupid, rote answer. Later that night, I was thinking how I could have answered it differently. And for some reason, I thought back to the people I’d been working with, the ones that brought me into their companies… It was eye opening; all of a sudden, a pattern emerged.
I’ve been working with people doing extraordinary things: people bringing meaningful change to the world, that want to leave a mark; bringing social, environmental, or corporate change; all of them driven by something greater than just profits. Every single person! The first person that came to mind was Dr Jeff Jacques, Founder and CEO of NeoCare Solutions.
Jeff is a doctor, and parent, who in 2011, had a child prematurely. His son spent the first six weeks of his life in the NICU. Jeff describes the experience so emotionally – often in tears, when he shares the story. On top of all the uncertainty of having a child in the NICU, he and his wife experienced first hand how difficult it was to navigate the waters, feeling like they had to fend for themselves. Even as a physician, with all his connections and knowledge, getting access to needed information, and getting connected to the right resources to make decisions was overwhelming. Information wasn’t readily accessible and there were no ‘coaches’ helping them a long the way. His son finally comes home, but afterwards, he becomes so convicted about the challenges in the system, that he decides to do something about it. He starts with a question: why should parents feel they’re on their own in this critical time? He believes families need access to more open communication during this period and more support through the transition from hospital to home. He starts with an idea, develops a ‘parent-enablement’ platform, and NeoCare Solutions is born. It’s really a beautiful story and Jeff is an inspiring man.
He starts this thing totally from scratch, begins to tell his story, and NeoCare gets off the ground. They get early customers and begin to help other families. But even as his company gains momentum, I remember him telling me that something was still missing. He kept talking about a disconnect. He felt that from its inception, he was the company’s sole spokesperson; the chief salesperson. He would parachute into just about every sales opportunity himself because he felt he was the only one who could really tell the story. It was interesting though – as we were talking about this, it made sense to the both of us. It was ‘his’ story; his experience that led to the creation of the company. Who else could tell this story the way he could?
Another interesting thing I remember about my early conversations with Jeff, though, was that he very clearly told me that getting his people to “tell” the story was NOT his primary goal. Building a passionate and connected culture was.
So fast forward, we do a workshop… And going in, I didn’t know exactly what to expect, however, some amazing, unexpected things emerged. It was never about getting his people to tell the NeoCare Story. Sure, everyone learned Jeff’s story, but something bigger happened. Everyone discovered what it meant to him or her individually. What emerged were these incredibly moving, emotional and personal stories, shared by everyone. It was no longer just Jeff’s story. Each person found their own experiences which pointed back to Jeff’s founding purpose. Everyone discovered their own stories that would help them become passionate and authentic spokespeople for the cause.
It was an incredible experience and I gained a couple things from this.
One was more of a shift in my own view towards the Sales Profession. I started to see salespeople more as spokespeople, representing a cause. Not company figureheads out there delivering corporate pitches, slinging whatever it is their companies want them to sell, trying to make the “sale.” Instead, passionate and empowered spokespeople sharing their authentic stories that make up who they are, and that stand for something greater than quotas/#s.
The other thing I learned was how special it can be when an entire company comes together around a cause, a purpose, and gains a collective voice, working together to move mountains. That’s the culture I believe Jeff was originally was searching for.
So, now back to my stupid answer from that interview: In 5 years, where do I see Storyleaders? Working with more people like Jeff, that want to leave a mark.
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