“If your stories are all about your products and services, that’s not storytelling. It’s a brochure. Give yourself permission to make the story bigger.” – Jay Baer, content marketing strategist
There’s no doubt facts significantly influence purchasing decisions. And, if you were selling to a machine, facts are all you would need to close the deal.
But cognitive research shows that when humans make decisions, they use both parts of their brain — the part that does the conscious logical thinking and the part that does the subconscious emotional processing.
Stories Are More Memorable than Information Alone
Stories provide a framework that engages both parts of the brain. A good story doesn’t just demonstrate how you, your products or your services function in a real-life situation, a story can also inspire trust and address barriers.
Here’s an example. An HVAC company tells prospective customers, We’re available 24/7 if you should ever have an emergency. The thing is, a lot of HVAC companies say this. That’s because customers worry that their furnace will go out in the middle of the night when it’s 10 degrees, or the air conditioning will fail on a 90-degree day.
The owner who tells the story of what his company did to save the day for a customer whose air conditioning went out in the middle of a graduation party with over 50 guests on a hot summer night, is the one people remember when they decide to purchase a new furnace or air conditioning unit.
Types of Stories
The type of story you tell depends on the context and your audience. To help you decide what type of story might be effective, ask yourself what action do you want to prompt your audience to do. Then, think about experiences you’ve had that demonstrate that behavior.
If you’re trying to inspire your sales staff to be persistent, for example, tell them a story about prospect you pitched for years before they finally became a customer. If you want to convince a customer that you/your company/
product/service is better than your competition, tell a story that shows the difference between what your company does and others do.
Build a Story Library
You may already be telling stories every day without consciously thinking about it. But planning ahead will enable you to tell the most effective story for the situation and to remember the most important points.
You won’t need a new story for each situation– a handful of stories should cover most situations. And there’s a benefit to telling the same stories again and again – you’ll greatly improve your delivery.
Start by identifying the situations where you can tell stories and what you want to achieve in those situations: customers, employees, networking events, and others you might routinely interact with.
It’s not necessary to write out your stories word for word– in fact, writing just a few bullet points is actually a more effective way to remember the story and avoid sounding scripted and artificial.
Aim for telling stories that last about 2-3 minutes at most. Unless you are formally speaking at an event, you won’t want to monopolize the conversation.
One last note: be prepared to listen to stories, too. Storytelling is contagious, and once you share your story, your audience may want to share one of their own.