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Unleashing the power of purpose

PowerWhat is the purpose of your business? If your first thought is “to make money”, then you’re missing a huge opportunity.

A few years ago I was helping a weight loss organisation with an innovation project looking at different ways they could deliver their service. I was with a group of team leaders who’d be delivering the initial trials, talking about the products they had on sale while customers were being weighed: low fat foods, recipe books, kitchen equipment and the like.

I asked what I thought was a fairly innocuous question: “how do you actively drive sales of these things?”

Their reaction was instant. The idea of trying to “sell” something to their customers was entirely inappropriate. In their minds, they weren’t there to “sell” anything; they were there to help people lose weight. As I subsequently discovered, very few of their most successful leaders were driven by money, and none were interested in talking about profit, only in serving that simple purpose of helping people lose weight.

They were the ones with the busiest businesses. They were the ones with the best customer retention. And when they were given products that they genuinely believed would help their customers lose weight, they were the ones whose recommendations drove the most volume.

Outside of the top end of the service industry and parts of the charity sector, it’s rare to find a workplace culture that is so unswervingly dedicated to the customer at the very point it matters most – the front line of sales. But it can pay off in spades: in staff loyalty, in customer loyalty, and ultimately of course, in sales.

If all your conversations with your team are about money, that’s what they will focus on. Their relationship to their customers will remain every bit as transactional as your relationship is to them. But if you’re saying instead, “our purpose is to help our customers to make the right decision for them, and to enjoy their time with us; how did we do today?” then the money will take care of itself.

Bottom Line: If you want your staff to put their heart and soul into what they do; and if you want your customers to come back again and again to spend their money with you; don’t give your people bigger targets, give them a clearer sense of purpose.

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