Everyone likes a good story. We’re conditioned to it from the time our parents told us the story of ourselves, “When you were very small, you would….” Or perhaps we’ve been conditioned to it from prehistoric times, sitting around the fire and sharing stories of how that wooly mammoth was brought down and where the juiciest berries were to be found.
Stories serve a useful purpose. Sociologists tell us that the stories of ourselves help us find our place in our family and the world. Anthropologists tell us those early campfire stories shared knowledge so everyone could eat. Whatever the outcome, the purpose was essentially the same: to make a point in an engaging and memorable way.
Dan and Chip Heath’s book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, is all about storytelling. All kinds of stories, why to tell them, when to tell them, and what you might expect to happen. Made to Stick opens with a story: the urban legend of meeting someone in a bar, then waking up in an ice-filled bathtub missing a kidney. How could you forget it?
Storytelling makes an emotional connection in a way that a lecture never will, whether it’s in print, on slides or in person. You can reach across generations, job functions and demographic groups. You can appeal to different interests. You can illustrate a complex or even controversial concept and make it understood and accepted, as you never will with a dry recitation of facts.
Use stories to help a prospect understand how your product can solve their problem. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. “XYZ Corporation was having the same problem, and when they applied our Super123, their process became much smoother and they saved $100 per widget they produced. Over a year that added up to a lot of dollars.”
Are you trying to sell in a competitive market? Is your sales process long and involved? A series of stories, illustrating user success, financial ROI, or ease of use and customer appreciation may help you close the sale.
Tell a story or two. Engage their interest, help them see the connection between their problem and your solution. Put yourself at the top of mind – and ahead of your competition.