Sunday, February 03, 2008

Selling Your Ideas. The Art of Storytelling

“We have found that the most effective persuaders use language in a particular way. They supplement numerical data with examples, stories, metaphors, and analogies to make their positions come alive. That use of language paints a vivid word picture and, in doing so, lends a compelling and tangible quality to the persuader’s point of view.” - Jay Conger, "The Necessary Art of Persuasion," Harvard Business Review

From the beginning of time, man has used cave drawings, pictograms and hieroglyphics to tell stories to transfer information, knowledge and experience, to communicate complex ideas and to pass on values and beliefs from one generation to the next. In today’s business world narrative stories remain the most effective way to reach out and “touch” people and influence their thinking by communicating ideas that stimulate understanding, reinforce or challenge established positions and help the listener to imagine alternative courses of action and envision a new and better future.

Why tell Stories? Telling stories creates a lasting impact and conveys new levels of understand and meaning. Telling stories allows us to accelerate the creation of common understanding and purpose in others in a non-directive and therefore more sustainable and pervasive way. The best form of story has an ironic end, in which that audience realises without the need for explanation how the happy ending could have come about. In this way learning is internalised and the audience will always remember the message or moral of the story.

What makes a great Storyteller? Great Storytellers follow 4 simple rules:

1. Structure: All great stories have a plot and characters. The plot should be designed to move the audience to the desired point of view, decision or action. Examples of characters include: a novice character who serves as a stand in for the listener or a hero who serves as an aspirational role model.
2. Authenticity: The story’s message will resonate with the audience when it is aligned with the personality of the storyteller.
3. Congruency: Good storytellers know their own deepest interests and values, and reveals them in their story with honesty and candor.
4. Emotion: Being true to yourself involves showing and sharing your emotions. “I want you to feel what I feel/felt.” A good story is designed to make this happen by sharing information that is bound in personal experience and thus made unforgettable. Sharing emotion demands generosity on the part of the Storyteller. Why? Because it requires being vulnerable. Be willing to expose your fears, anxieties and shortcomings. This allows the audience to identify with you and thereby brings listeners to a place of understanding and a clarity of understanding that will ultimately move them to action.

What are the best stories to tell? The best stories to tell are your own stories because you can tell them with credibility and ease because they are based on your own experience.

Business Storytelling: You must enter the hearts of your audience because this is where their emotions live. Information seeks only to "rent space" in their minds and our minds are relatively open. However, we guard our hearts with zeal, knowing its power to move us. The audience’s mind is part of our target, their heart is our bulls-eye. To be effective the Storyteller must first display his own open heart.

Customer Success Stories: Knowledge of how existing customers were able to address their business problems using your product or service enables you to engage, present and sell to others customers who have similar situations. Look to capture 4 success stories from each customer sale that you make. 1) Vision of a solution: This is what the customer has in mind as he moves through the typical buying process. 2) Solution as initially implemented: The first inprovements and intial results from using your product or service and the time taken to reach this point. 3) Solution fully deployed: What are the full benfits and improvements generated by your solution after it has been fully deployed? 4) Extended solution: Here we are looking for examples of how the customer has been able to achieve other additional benefits to their business that you have not envisioned. These customer success stories often represent new market opportunities.

Stories create a common understanding, disrupt existing or engrained thinking, facilitate learning by enhancing facts and data with context and meaning, and can helpe us to recongnise problems, admit short comings or failure without attribution or blame. Increase your sales today by telling stories that enable understanding, reveal meaning and create insights into how your products and services can help your customers to achieve their vision, their business objectives and most importantly their personal goals. Remember: Don’t Sell, Tell (great stories)!


Rob Purfield said...

Many people underestimate the power of how they use language. From body language to emotional tone, right through to syntax and the understanding of the use of predicates. have some really interesting stuff to help people understand and use this kind of information.
The understanding of how to use language and to understand what others are saying beyond their words :))

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