We’ve been writing a lot lately about “the new communication age” and life in a “post-PowerPoint world.” Communication skills have never been more important than they are right now.
And one of the best ways to communicate in a powerful way is through the use of story. Story can be used in lots of ways. Story could mean an example or anecdote or experience that can be related to your business point. Story can also mean a certain type of technique to quickly explain your recommendation or idea. And one of the best story telling techniques we know is called “Problem→Solution.” We use it and teach it all the time.
The idea is really simple. Before you do anything else in your presentation or conversation, articulate the problem you are trying to solve. “We have a problem with our cost structure, because our supply chain isn’t as clean and efficient as it could be. And if we don’t real with it, it will hurt us significantly.” Many people move too quickly in their presentation to trying to sell their idea. But often before you can think about selling the idea, you first have to build alignment around the problem. Sell the problem first; build consensus around that, before you do anything else. If you and your colleagues don’t agree that there IS a problem, or don’t agree on the gravity of the problem, then nothing else in your presentation is even worth discussing. You’ll never get that far.
Now, once you have built alignment around the problem, THEN articulate your solution. “And our team is recommending that, as a solution, we take a look at our contracts with vendors in three areas – fuel, trucking, and air freight.”
And then, after you have articulated the solution, the final step is to sell the benefits of your recommended solution, preferably in a list no longer than three items long.
But the critical component of this technique, and the part that many people miss, is to first sell the problem.
Problem→Solution. It is a great technique, that will help you achieve clarity, brevity, context, impact and value.