“Effective storytellers gain a critical edge and manage to develop customer mindshare and commitment by being able to access their customers imaginations, emotions, value systems, motives, memories, hopes and fears”.
Using appropriate business stories to share insights or ideas, to demonstrate capabilities or to spark reflection can act as an anchor for customers, a defining moment where they can visualize their own situation. The impact of an effective story can also help to build commitment. In the highly competitive world of sales, where differentiating oneself is most challenging, this is a key lever. Remember stories are not “made up, ” these are real business examples articulated to illicit emotion and connection between the customer’s business issues, expected outcomes and ways we can help them to achieve their goals.
Common Story Types to Use with Customers:
Bridging the Gap: This story is used to paint a picture in the client’s mind about the difference between what is (current state) and what could be (desired state). In your story, you should move back and forth between the two states to crease energy and encourage the client to engage and ultimately take action. Our capabilities can help the client to bridge the gap between where they are today and where they want to be.
Metaphors: A metaphor or an analogy is a similarity between two different things. This is how we learn and why metaphors are so effective – we make generalizations form one thing and apply them to other things. Research at the University of B.C found that audiences were about 50% more interested in products when the ads used analogies, because they generated positive memories and emotions that transferred to the advertised product.
Evidence/Results: These stories or references can be used to prove that you can do what you are promising. These are the “just the facts” type of story. Focus on answering 1) What is the problem? 2) What was the solution? 3) What results were achieved?
The Hero’s Journey: this is a pattern of narrative seen in most books and movies, think of Star Wars, Harry Potter and most Disney films that follow the hero’s journey.
- Provide Context: Set up the story by providing background details on the key people involved and the situation.
- Focus on the Journey: Describe how the experience unfolded over time such as the level of risk, the challenges and setbacks, the range of emotions felt, how the hero achieved something great, went above and beyond, made a difference, lessons that were learned.
- Resolution: Re-emphasize the lessons learned and insights gained from this experience.
Leveraging stories will help you develop customer mind share and commitment. You need to know your audience and the business outcomes you want to achieve and use this knowledge to develop a suitable story, tell it and get feedback.