Storytelling: They key to sales & business

Posted by kdow on Feb 27, 2017 9:39:35 AM

I’ve had a fairly constant dialogue with various friends in various job roles across various timezones. We’ve discussed moves to other companies, getting a new qualification to set them up for the future, etc. You know the kind of conversations I’m talking about. The ones you have over a pint. Except these are over iMessage & regularly involve Pikachu “stickers”.

Recently we came to the same conclusion about job roles, job types & industries. That was that they all boil down to the same thing: sales. Everything is sales. Or at least, everything has some requirement for that sales type skill set. Yes, even development. Some lone wolf development agency based out of Vietnam is hustling for a sale as much as the quota-carrying rep in the publicly traded software company.

This realisation (which in & of itself is worthy of it’s own post) lead me to recall a coaching session I did with my colleagues from a few years ago. It was about storytelling, which is a key trait in sales that gets lost in the ether of hitting targets, having high activities, etc. Telling a compelling story is important.

The first part of my talk began with a clip from Steve Jobs’ presentation of the iPhone back in 2007. We all know what he did. He introduced it by launching 3 products at once. He was typically passionate, had a core theme to build a story upon & he even introduced a villain (“other mobile phones are just not smart”). He also sold the benefit of iPhone, and of course, he was inspiring.

There are four key traits to any compelling tale. A good story should be:

  • Inspiring.
  • Challenging.
  • Educational.
  • Emotional.

But that doesn’t tell anyone how to tell a good story. So then I focused on a concept that comes from my wife’s background in media (she has an MA in Writing); the heroes journey. It’s something I’d never really heard of before, but it’s certainly something that everyone likely relates to because almost every story follows the same journey. Everything from Frodo in Lord of the Rings to some fictional CEO in a business book follows the heroes journey. And that journey to success follows this path:

  • Identity — our hero asking who they are.
  • A turn — normally against the status quo.
  • Struggle — there’s some crisis, existential or otherwise to fight against.
  • Insight — our hero see’s the light!
  • Resolution — the end; good, bad or indifferent.

So we know that there are four key traits to a story, and a journey to follow for that story. But there are also different types of story. They can normally be boiled down to these 3:

  • The personal story: Walking through a personally identifiable pain point that ends in some resolution.
  • The historical story: These are typically persuasive stories by their nature. They’re not necessarily driven by hype, but instead driven by data because something happened.
  • The meet-the-genius story: These are based around the idea that someone else shone a light to the path of our hero. This could be a story from a book you read, when you met some field expert or similar.

We now have a pretty solid structure for our storytelling. We know that a good story is inspiring, educational, or emotional. We also know it follows the heroes journey through identity, turning against the status quo, struggle & ultimately having some insight which leads to some resolution. And finally our framework means that it’s either a personal, historical or a meet-the-genius story type.

The funny thing is that in the framework above, I never mentioned sales, marketing, development, interview process or anything related to business. But it fits into everything. This is how you pitch, because no one — no one — wants to be pitched to. But everyone can relate to a compelling and relatable story. That’s what sales is. Weaving a story into your process, whether you’re a quota-carrying rep in a big company or the “growth” person in an agency, is an important way to compel someone to give you money for what you do.

Get good at telling a compelling story and you’re likely to be a top sales person.

Am I missing something in this post? Have I got it all wrong?! Should I add more? Let me know on twitter or by email!