One of my more insightful teachers Toby Hecht loves to repeat this saying– “Birds fly, fish swim and human beings tell stories.”
Yes, that’s what we humans do – we tell stories.
Either we are telling those stories to others are we are telling stories to ourselves about what is happening around us.
If you are in sales, you owe it to yourself to learn the art of storytelling because that is the fastest route to get attention, hold it and build a level of trust that may not otherwise occur.
Storytelling works like magic
Good storytelling works like magic. Patrick Renvoise, author of NeuroMarketing tells a story where he changes a sign for a beggar in front of a restaurant and drastically changed the beggar’s fortunes
That sign read “Homeless, please help”
Renvoise changed it to read:
“What if You Were Hungry?”
The story changed the context for the passer-by.
Instead of seeing another beggar in the street feeling sorry for themselves, for a few moments, the story connected the plight of the beggar with the passer-by’s own vulnerability and that empathy immediately changed the fortune for the beggar.
Think about what really changed here...
It’s the Story People Tell Themselves
In the story above, things changed when the people who saw the sign started telling a DIFFERENT story to themselves.
Most beggars (and marketers) have a simple message, and it’s all about “me”. Beggars focus on sympathy, marketers focus on “it” and “what it does”.
The moment the focus switches to the passer-by reading the sign (What if You Were Hungry) there is an emotional connection. It becomes personal.
The passer-by instinctively reflects on the situation, and instead of scorn, can for a few moments, relate to the plight of the beggar and it only takes a few moments to connect feelings with an act of kindness.
The place (right in front of the restaurant) also helped because it set the context brilliantly. Place and timing of the story are very important.
Your Story Has to Extend a Conversation that is Already Happening
This is an important point about storytelling.
Rather than interrupting, good stories extend the conversation that is already happening in the minds of people that you are trying to reach.
Your story has to go from the known to the unknown. This rule does not change however compelling the “unknown” (your product or service) is.
The known (your prospect’s situation) has to be something they are willing to change if the potential offering is compelling enough.
Stories about others that shine a light on the current situation to highlight the problem/opportunity and that connect the buyer emotionally are very effective.
You Can Pack the Power in the Narrative
I wrote a while ago about a car wash that was selling their multi-wash coupons like hot cakes. The secret? It was in the narrative, the story.
What they didn’t say:
* Buy 2 Car Washes. Get 1 free
* Car wash 3-pack 33% off
* Save more buy buying more
What they were saying:
Buy 2 Car Washes and THIS one is FREE
The offer is the same as any of the above but the story speaks to the immediate gratification possibility that everyone is silently craving for.
What’s Your Story?
It’s not your product.
It’s not your service.
It’s not your offers.
Granted, all of them are important. Without something good, there is no point in being in the business. But, the real power is in the story to amplify your offerings and connect with buyers to imagine using them.
Time to go back to the drawing board and think – What’s Your Story and How Can You Make it More Compelling?
Want more? Please read:
If you are interested in all the articles in the series so far, here they are:
A is for Alignment (title changed on Salesforce.com blog)
F is for Follow Up (On Huffington Post)
J is for Judgment (On Huffington Post)
N is for Nurturing (On Huffington Post)
R is for Resourcefulness (On Huffington Post)