Starting your sales meeting with a story about your son playing soccer is more likely to lead to a sale than if you start with the spreadsheet. Here’s why.
Our brains are wired for stories. In fact, Lisa Cron, in her book “Wired for Stories” argues that storytelling was as influential on our development as a species as the opposable thumb. Stories were used to pass and persist information from one generation to the next for centuries before the written word. We developed unique memory retention for stories that no other form of communication holds, which means that when you share a memorable story, your client will remember any information that is connected to that story better than if you only share information without the story.
Start with a Story
Before presenting the numbers, consider sharing a business related story.
A personal, well-crafted, true life story that contains emotion will stick with your listener. They will remember you and the theme of your story and are more likely to remember the sales pitch details along with the story.
When you leave your potential client with a story to remember rather than simply a full color brochure, you stand out from the crowd.
Business stories focus on one moment that is a reflection for the whole. It paints a picture in your listeners mind that connects to their values. It associates you and your product or service with a memorable moment.
Types of Business Stories
There are 5 major types of business stories. The “Why” Story, the “Impact” Story, the “Origin/Founder” story, the “Customer Testimonial” and the “Imagine If” Story. Each of these business stories serves a purpose.
The Why story answers the question: Why do you do what you do? For example, maybe a mentor, teacher or coach inspired you to pursue a passion. Maybe something traumatic or something inspiring happened in your life, or in the life of a loved one, that influenced what you do today. Maybe seeing the mission of the organization in action inspired you to get involved. This story focuses on the moment that you knew this was your calling. It highlights your core values and your purpose, inspiring your listener.
The Why story connects you to your client by helping them to understand why this work is meaningful to you. It also inspires confidence in you as someone who will take care of them as a client because you care about what you do and therefore will take them seriously.
An Impact Story focuses on a specific example of how you or the company helped a specific client or the community. The story highlights how you, personally, have witnessed the power of the product or service in helping others. For example, an Impact Story may highlight a client’s pain and inefficacies that were resolved by your team or organization, or how the development of a new product feature changed the trajectory of the launch.
A powerful Impact story illustrates how you will serve a potential client by focusing on a specific example with a similar client where you witnessed, drove, or participated in a win. It will allow the client to envision what their experience with you or the company will look like in a tangible, memorable way.
An Origin story explains how a product, project, or company began. A company’s origin story explains the inspiration and how an idea became a company or a movement. A powerful origin story, if crafted and shared, can become company lore, a common narrative, that is told over and over again.
The origin story for a product or a project, similarly shares how an idea became action, with a goal to inspire others to join the movement. This can be a useful tool in raising funds, gaining volunteers or collaborators, and instilling cultural values.
Client testimonials, customer reviews, and customer feedback, told by the clients themselves, are useful stories that convey the value of your brand. The difference between an Impact Story and a Client Testimonial is the point of view. Client testimonials are told by the customers themselves while Impact stories are told by someone who services the clients.
Taking time to gather and share meaningful client stories can help potential clients to see themselves as someone in that story. Client testimonials are powerful marketing tools.
The Imagine If story describes a future, fictional, example of what will be if a specific course of action is taken. Often used in combination with an impact story, the Imagine If story describes how an intended change or action will affect the future of the organization or have an impact on a client. For example, when implementing a new technology, a story about the limitations of the current system (Impact story) followed by a story about the outcome of the project (Imagine If story) gives the team a better understanding of why a change is needed and how it will affect them.
The Imagine If story paints the picture of what is coming or what could have been or what might be. It is a useful tool for change management, where a project implementation, company merger, leadership decision, or reorganization will impact a team. Painting the future with a story can help to elevate fears and inspire cooperation.
So, tell a business story and connect with your clients, colleagues, and prospects in a meaningful way!