5 Dimensions To Successful Sales With Storytelling

Growing up in the Appalachian mountains meant I was surrounded by storytellers.

Whether it's folklore, tall tales, or making small talk it seemed like everyone in the mountains of North Carolina has the gift of gab.

One year in college I even took a storytelling class. We studied music, narrative structure, pacing, character development, suspense, tension, and more.

Through the years I continue to see more and more parallels between effective sales, negotiations, and presentations.

It's all just storytelling.

What's your story?

It's a common conversation starter, and for good reason.

We understand everything through the lens of story.

The facts and figures help us make quantitative decisions, but the quality dimension is always within a context (and that context is the story you're telling yourself, someone is telling you, or you're telling them).

Branding is your story. Marketing is telling your story. Sales is helping someone believe your story. Referral marketing is helping someone tell your story to their friends.

Learn To Do It Right

Since everything is storytelling, it makes sense to dedicate some effort to getting better at it.

To that end I wanted to share five details that you should consider.

1: Accept the mantle

If you've ever told someone how your day went, you're a storyteller. If you've ever given someone your "elevator pitch" then you've told them a story. If you've ever tried to get your friends to watch your favorite movie, then you're a storyteller.

You're already doing it so you might as well take it seriously.

You might have a lot of baggage to work through.

  • I don't like being long-winded.
  • I hated Aesop's fables.
  • I'm not imaginative.
  • Nobody wants to hear what I have to say.

Whatever those roadblocks are, the first step to breaking through them is being honest with yourself about the fact that you're already a storyteller whether you want it or not.

You can't avoid it.

To be human is to tell stories.

2: Avoid the Superman problem

You know what that is?

He's too perfect.

He can fly. He's impervious. He has X-ray vision. He can move faster than a speeding bullet.

BORING.

At least he has one weakness; kryptonite.

Without a single flaw, Superman wouldn't be worth paying attention to.

What could someone like that teach me about being the fallible creature that I am?

So don't hide the tough parts of your story.

I know you'd rather not talk about your most embarrassing and regretful decisions, but they are a part of what makes you you.

In fact, it probably makes you more relatable to people.

Me? I've been divorced. I had my car repossessed. TWICE!

I'm not proud of those years of my life, but I also don't hide from them either.

Share the struggle.

Which leads us to the next point.

3: Don't fix what's not broken

Struggle is part of the classic story structure that looks like this:

  1. The hero
  2. Is challenged
  3. And overcomes
  4. Leaves transformed

This is a framework that has withstood the test of time. The earliest oral-tradition stories and the latest Hollywood blockbuster follow this framework.

You don't have to reinvent the wheel here.

That's why sharing your struggles is doubly important: it helps the listener/reader experience tension instead of just glossing over details.

4: They're the hero

Everyone is the hero of their own story and an NPC in everyone else's.

And maybe featured in an extended director's cut scene if they're lucky.

But this is important enough I'm going to say it again, but big this time.

Everyone is the hero of their own story and an NPC in everyone else's.

This is a huge lesson if you're in sales or consulting of any sort.

The temptation is to present yourself as this heroic character who has overcome obstacles and vanquished demons.

Great!

But how does that help me?

Instead of focusing on your own adventure, tell them the story of why you're the best guide to help them conquer their own dragons. Be the trusted guide and advisor who shows them the path to their own greatness.

This is next level storytelling: help them tell their own story of success.

Which leads us to the final detail.

5: Encourage others to tell their own story

Everybody loves talking about themselves.

Even you.

Don't fall into the trap of only talking about yourself. Give others the permission to share their adventures.

They want to do it anyway!

And if you're the one who gives them the encouragement to talk about their favorite topic (themselves), then they're going to love you all the more for it.

So become a master at helping others be better storytellers by asking great questions. Provided engagement through active listening skills.

Master this skill and you'll never be without friends.

Lessons Learned

One day I was at Wendy's with my Mom and we had just gotten our order. I asked her to get me some ketchup. Seeing as how I was old enough to get it myself, she told me as much.

But I was so shy I'd rather go without something that I wanted than talk to a stranger.

After years of acting this way, I realized that it was always the "obnoxious" people who seemed to get what they wanted, and I realized that the reason I didn't like them was that they didn't seem to hate themselves for the reasons I hated myself.

So I made a decision to get better at being outgoing, and I learned how to juggle knives when I was 13 years old.

That was my way of putting myself out there.

I quickly understood that having a strong network of people who know you're amazing is an amazing resource.

I think that's why I had an intuition (if not an explicit understanding) of the value of storytelling.

Being able to tell someone what you're all about in a way that captures their imagination is a powerful skill.

Even better if you can get them to tell you their story in a way that makes them feel powerful!

Ultimately the lesson is this: humans are storytelling creatures. Since before the dawn of time we've spun tales around the campfire, and all human relationships are maintained on the threads of our shared stories.

Take it seriously.

Written & posted by Jonathan on April 9, 2021.
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