Sales is about making connections with your customer. Humans invented stories as the most powerful way to connect information and people. That’s why storytelling is something you have to learn. Learning to play any musical instrument is challenging. Every once and a while a Mozart comes along that is naturally gifted at a young age. But for most people, the reason they’re good at something is because they do it consistently. Just like learning a musical instrument, storytelling is a skill that you need to master.
Many salespeople go wrong when they share a case study, thinking that it’s a story. You’re laying out the company, the problem, and how your company solved the problem. You’re making the storyteller the hero and the subject the company. No one cares about companies. Companies are inanimate abstracts. People do care about people. They care about themselves. Make your story about someone’s challenge and how you solved a problem for the person.
If you're going to play an instrument in a band, you need to know how to play a lot of songs. You also need enough knowledge of your genre to jump right in and play. Good salespeople have a library of stories in their heads that they can pull from when they need them. It needs to come naturally, in the same way that John Mayer can play any blues song.
What are Doug’s top three storytelling dos and don’ts? Listen to find out!
Doug believes that the Hero’s Journey isn’t what you want to use for business storytelling. You don’t need to tell a long story. The stories you tell need to be short-form and anecdotal. The story should share what happened, the challenge, and how the challenge was resolved. Don’t buy the doctrine that every story has to be a hero overcoming a huge challenge to find the truths about themselves.
In the mid-1980s, Doug was standing in the office of his production and communication agency. He was reading a story in the newspaper. The story was about a startup package delivery company, Federal Express. Federal Express promised their customers that they would get their customers packages to their destinations on time. No one had ever done that before.
A huge snowstorm closed some local roads and a delivery driver couldn’t get to his destination in his truck. So he drove to the airport, rented a helicopter, and flew the package to its destination.
The press thought they’d be out of business by Christmas. But the CEO said their drivers were smart enough to know when and how to deliver packages. They supported the driver, who became a hero in the company.
Doug’s clients included large technology companies and banks. They gave their business to Federal Express. FedEx became one of the world’s greatest brands. It all started with a powerful story in a newspaper.
A few powerful stories that show what your company stands for or how you’ve helped others be successful can have a huge impact on your culture and your sales. A great story will stick. This story not only stuck with Doug but stuck so powerfully that he remembers it 30 years later.
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