“… has taught more than 2000 seminars, in twelve countries, and authored more than 400 articles. Matthew is widely acknowledged with having invented the paperclip. Please help me welcome….”
The host didn’t blink. The audience didn’t blink. When the polite applause subsided, I thought: They have no idea know who I am from that introduction. They didn’t even hear that last point about the paperclip. How will I get get them to lower their defenses, trust me, before I offer my ideas? Somehow I knew more claims about my awesomeness wasn’t going to work.
So I decided to tell a story.
It went like this: A few years ago, I was teaching in Montana. After lunch, I felt a queasy rumble in my stomach. Slowly, I walked towards the back of the room, issuing instructions to the audience to discuss something amongst themselves. If I could just distract them for a moment, before my stomach lurched! With seconds to spare, I made it out of sight. As I heard the audience’s voices rising, I vomited into a garbage barrel.
Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to turn off the lapel microphone.
Back in the here-and-now, my audience groaned and laughed. I’d gotten them to blink. My story did what the bullet-points of my resume didn’t. They immediately understood: Hey, I’m just an ordinary guy, like you! I’ve had my ups-and-downs, some interesting experiences. If you give me a chance, there’s something I can offer you that will help you reach your goals.
We were beginning to connect.
That’s the power of storytelling.
My resume isn’t enough to get people to look. We live in an era where credential-claims fly faster than tweets, with similar validity. Consumers are skeptical, defensive, of marketing claims. For those of us who make a living selling – a product, service, even ideas – you only have a few precious minutes to make a connection.
People “buy” on emotion first, facts second. That’s true for people and products. Our gut frequently overrides our brain. We go shopping for an econo-car, but leave in the sports car. We wanted socks, and buy shoes. Our budget calls for a $200,000 house, but we make an offer on the $260,000 one we fell in love with!
If that’s how people buy, consider how you’re selling.
Less facts. More emotions.
Stories make an impact in ways facts and figures often cannot. I often bump into people who attended one of my seminars many years ago. The almost always say, “I loved your story about the Hyatt!” It was the story that helped them latch-on to any data, ideas or suggestions I made. Not my resume, a data point, or a fancy presentation effect.
To make a sale, tell more stories.
Whether we’re marketing ourselves or our products, we must get beyond mere facts. And when we tell stories, we should move beyond the “documentary” form of a previous satisfied client. Somewhere between extolling our specs, our product’s specs, the market’s specs and the finance specs, we need to get people to feel something. As a consumer yourself, you know that’s true: The most memorable commercials you’ve ever seen made you laugh or cry, not told you the ingredients of the candy bar, or the width of the tires on the car.
Of course, data matters, so you can’t leave it all behind: Clients want to know about tools, techniques, time, and cost. I usually reserve that conversation until after we’re comfortable with each other – if we get comfortable first. I’ve never lost a gig because of my past sales volume, a technology I use or the color of my tie. But I’ve lost plenty of gigs when I didn’t make time for my customer to emotionally connect with me.
That’s the beauty of stories. They let clients say, I like your story! Now, do your thing!
Are you telling enough stories?
What stories are telling today? Take a look at your bio, your social media, even how you talk about yourself to others. Don’t be afraid to do some re-writing and re-wording. Get beyond the bullet points, facts and specs of your career. Talk about how you started, what motivates you, where you’ve been, what your career means to you. Don’t be bland, neutral, homogenized. Be bold! Leverage your unique traits, your sense of humor, seriousness, risk-taking, creative, silly, hopeful, confident self to underline the kind of experience your client will have with you and your product.
Especially if you are the product!
Then position your story everywhere. Your voicemail, email, website, social media and presentations with clients. When you write, post, share, email, speak, start with a story. Then make an offer of value. And even end with a story, too!
Our stories position us as unique value propositions. They increase our immunity to price pressure. You can’t be commoditized, ranked, rated or price-reduced, if you’re competing on your special story. Be a history, a future, a mystery or a romance.
Inspire me, to sell me.
What’s your story?