Yesterday I received a message from an aspiring speaker who asked if he could pick my brain about breaking into the speaking business. I told him I had time for one question, to which he asked, “How do you get booked by companies when there is so much competition in the speaking market?”

The answer I gave him is one that we can all apply to our careers, whether you’re a speaker or in any other line of work.

I responded, “I don’t speak. I solve problems for my clients.”

There’s a big difference. In the competitive landscape of the major companies I’m fortunate to conduct professional development for, I learned years ago that they aren’t looking for “motivation,” they are looking for solutions to problems. How do we increase the sales performance of our team? How do we improve employee engagement? How do we retain our talent? The list goes on.

I used to pride myself on how motivated I could get an audience until one day I had an honest talk with myself and wondered if “motivation” was enough? The answer is no. Motivation, inspiration, and all associated words are a byproduct of a great discussion or presentation, but the reality is, clients and customers need more.

Again, this is true in any industry. Let’s say you’re a car salesman. Are you “just selling a car” or are you “providing peace of mind to a mother of three who transports her amazing children to school and other activities and values safety above all else?” Do you see the difference? Maybe it’s a sell to you, but to her, this is a decision that has potential life and death implications. You must treat her with that level of respect. Let’s say you’re in education. Are you “just teaching English” or are you “planting the foundation of solid rhetoric that will dictate the child’s ability to express his or herself clearly to ensure future success and career advancement?” It’s two different mindsets.

I’m not saying every problem you solve has to be a life-changing problem. However, you can’t discount the value of the problem you are solving to the company or individual that is struggling. Be the best at providing a specific solution.

Regardless of what industry you’re in, you must give more. You owe it to your clients, your company, and yourself. Put yourself in the shoes of the people you serve. What are their pain points? How can you solve their problems or move the needle? If you don’t know what their problem is, ASK. Every job solves some sort of problem. That’s the sole reason the job exists. Be sure you’re focused on solving that problem and you’ll set yourself apart from all those “just speaking, just teaching, just working, just trying to make it to Friday” types in the world.

Change your focus and you’ll find opportunity. Solve specific problems and you’ll always be in demand.

I don’t just speak, I SOLVE. In that same manner, look at yourself in the mirror and say,

I don’t just (insert job), I SOLVE.

Now keep your ears open. Opportunity will be knocking on your door soon enough.

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