Use the 3 Elements of a Good Story to Lead With Power

The Power of Story

When I was growing up, I spent many weekends camping with my Boy Scout Troop in pursuit of my Eagle Scout badge. One thing I remember about those trips was the campfires and the stories we told. From the scary to the hilarious, those stories created an environment as we entertained each other. No devices, no distractions, just stories.

We may live in a different time, but the power of story remains an important part of memory, of persuasion, and of leadership.

A few months ago, we spotlighted Procter & Gamble executive Paul Smith, who is now a speaker and trainer on storytelling techniques. His latest book, Sell with a Story: How to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Close the Sale is a powerful reminder of the power of story.

After our written interview, I met with him in person to continue our conversation.

 

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” –Maya Angelou

 

We discuss the 3 elements of a great story:

How to Capture Attention, Build Trust and Close the Sale

The Power of Story

All of us love a good story. We are swept into the latest book or blockbuster film or we are enthralled by a particularly talented storyteller in our office. Those who tell a story well have our attention.

Leaders should strive to be good storytellers, painting a vivid scene and picture of what’s ahead. That’s the art of persuasion and influence. It’s also the skill of most sales leaders, who use narratives to explain a difficult concept. We are creatures who love a good story.

 

“At the end of the day, people follow those who know where they’re going.” -Jack Trout

 

I know that I may review spreadsheets and be dizzied with statistics, but one emotionally connecting story can have more immediate impact.

Former Procter & Gamble executive Paul Smith is now a speaker and trainer on storytelling techniques. His latest book, Sell with a Story: How to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Close the Sale, attracted my attention. Because I’m a big believer in the power of story, I wanted to connect with him to talk about his work.

 

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” –Maya Angelou

 

Stories Influence and Persuade

You witnessed, first-hand, the power of a sales story when you purchased some art. Would you briefly share that with us?9780814437117

Sure. Last summer my wife, Lisa, and I were at an art show in Cincinnati. She was on a mission to find a piece for our boys’ bathroom wall at home.

At one point we found ourselves at the booth of an underwater photographer named Chris Gug. Looking through his work, Lisa got attached to a picture that, to me, looked about as out of place as a pig in the ocean. It was a picture of a pig in the ocean! Literally. A cute little baby piglet, up to its nostrils in salt water, snout covered with sand, dog-paddling its way straight into the camera lens.

When I got my chance, I asked the seller (named Gug) what on Earth that pig was doing in the ocean. And that’s when the magic started.

He said, “Yeah, it was the craziest thing. That picture was taken in the Caribbean, just off the beach of an uninhabited Bahamian island named Big Major Cay.” He told us that years ago, a local entrepreneur brought a drove of pigs to the island to raise for bacon.

Then he said, “But, as you can see in the picture, there’s not much more than cactus on the island for them to eat. And pigs don’t much like cactus. So the pigs weren’t doing very well. But at some point, a restaurant owner on a nearby island started bringing his kitchen refuse by boat over to Big Major Cay and dumping it a few dozen yards off shore. The hungry pigs eventually learned to swim to get to the food. Each generation of pigs followed suit, and now all the pigs on the island can swim. As a result, today the island is more commonly known as Pig Island.”

Gug went on to describe how the pigs learned that approaching boats meant food, so they eagerly swim up to anyone arriving by boat. And that’s what allowed him to more easily get the close-up shot of the dog-paddling piglet. He probably didn’t even have to get out of his boat.

I handed him my credit card and said, “We’ll take it!”

Why my change of heart? The moment before he shared his story (to me at least), the photo was just a picture of a pig in the ocean, worth little more than the paper it was printed on. But two minutes later, it was no longer just a picture. It was a story—a story I would be reminded of every time I looked at it. The story turned the picture into a conversation piece—a unique combination of geography lesson, history lesson, and animal psychology lesson all in one.

In the two minutes it took Gug to tell us that story, the value of that picture increased immensely. It’s the kind of story that I now refer to as a “value-adding” story because it literally makes what you’re selling more valuable to the buyer.

 

“Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story.” –John Barth

 

5 Reasons Stories Matter

Why is story telling so important?

I could probably give you dozens of reasons, but here are my favorite 5.

  1. Storytelling speaks to the part of the brain where decisions are actually made– Human beings make subconscious, emotional, and sometimes irrational decisions in one place in the brain and then justify those decisions rationally and logically in another place. So if you’re trying to influence buyers’ decisions, using facts and rational arguments alone isn’t enough. You need to influence them emotionally, and stories are your best vehicle to do that.
  2. Stories are more memorable– Lots of studies show that facts are easier to remember if they’re embedded in a story than if they’re just given to you in a list. And you can prove that to yourself right now. All of you reading this know that by this time tomorrow you won’t remember this list of 5 things. But you will remember the story of Pig Island. And next week, next month, or next year, you’ll be able to tell the Pig Island story and get most of the facts right. But you won’t remember any of the 5 things in this list.
  3. Stories can increase the value of the product you’re selling– as you saw in the Pig Island story.
  4. Stories are contagious– When’s the last time you heard someone say, “Wow! You’ll never believe the PowerPoint presentation I just saw!” Never. But they do say that about a great story.
  5. Storytelling gives you a chance to be original– Most buyers have seen every pitch, tactic, and closing line in the book. They’ve heard them from you, your competitors, and the last three people who had your job. Storytelling gives you a chance to go “off script” and say something they won’t hear from anyone else.

 

Many people may think, “Oh sure, a sales person should be a good story teller.” But you turn that around and say it’s more important to have a buyer tell their story. I love that. Tell us more about that.

I figure if you don’t hear their stories first, how will you know which of your stories to tell?

A colleague of ours, Mike Weinberg, says it this way: “You wouldn’t trust a physician who walked into the examining room, spent an hour telling you how great he was, and then wrote a prescription, would you?” Of course not. Then why would a buyer accept the recommendation of a salesperson who did the same thing?

 

How to Get Others to Tell Their Stories

Revolutionary Techniques to Become a Master of Persuasion

A Revolutionary Way to Influence

What separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders?

Since I read hundreds of books each year, I am always talking about them. Some books are quickly forgotten and others stay with you. And then there are a few books that are so extraordinary that they merit a second read and deserve a prominent place on your closest shelf. Not to impress, but to be there when you need to refer to an idea or refresh your mind.

 

“Every battle is won before it is fought.” -Sun Tzu

 

The book I’m talking about in this post is in that rare category. The author, Dr. Robert Cialdini, is best known for his groundbreaking work, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, which is a perennial bestseller. It’s so good that it’s become part of our collective thinking. From social media to sales to leadership techniques, it’s a classic.

When I heard that Dr. Cialdini wrote a new book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, I couldn’t wait to read it. And I’m certain it’s one you’ll want to read again and again.

I enjoyed the opportunity to ask him about his research and his new book.

 

“If you want to change the world, change the metaphor.” -Joseph Cambell

 

What High Achievers Do Differently

You spent time infiltrating the training programs of numerous companies. What was the biggest surprise for you during this time?

You’re right. As a kind of secret agent, I once infiltrated the training programs of a broad range of professions dedicated to getting us to say yes. In these programs, advanced trainees were often allowed to accompany and observe an old pro who was conducting business.  I always jumped at those opportunities because I wanted to see if I could register, not just what practitioners in general did to succeed, but what the best of them did.  One such practice quickly surfaced that shook my assumptions.  I’d expected that the aces of their professions would spend more time than the inferior performers developing the specifics of their requests—the clarity, logic, and desirable features of them.  That’s not what I found.

 

Research: high achievers spend more time than others preparing before making a request.

 

The highest achievers spent more time crafting what they did and said before making a request.  They set about their mission as skilled gardeners who know that even the finest seeds will not take root in poorly prepared ground.  Much more than their less effective colleagues, they didn’t rely merely on the merits of an offer to get it accepted; they recognized that the psychological frame in which an appeal is first placed can carry equal or even greater weight.  So, before sending their message, they arranged to make their audience sympathetic to it.

 

Surprising findings from Dr. Cialdini:

You are more likely to choose a French wine if you’ve just been exposed to French music.

You are more inclined to buy inexpensive furniture if the website wallpaper is covered in pennies.

You will likely be more careful if you just viewed a picture of Rodin’s The Thinker.

You are more likely to feel someone is warmer if they have just handed you hot chocolate.

You are more likely to purchase a popular item if you start to watch a scary movie.

 

How Seating Arrangements Influence Your Perception

Let’s talk about our point of view. Even the subtle change of seating arrangements or the view of the camera changes everything. What are some implications of this finding?

Imagine you are in a café enjoying a cup of coffee and, at the table directly in front of you, a man and woman are deciding which movie to see that evening.  After a few minutes they settle on one of the options and set off to the theater.  As they leave, you notice that one of your friends had been sitting at the table behind them.  Your friend sees you, joins you, and remarks on the couple’s movie conversation, saying, “It’s always just one person who drives the decision in those kinds of debates, isn’t it?”  You laugh and nod because you noticed that, although he was trying to be nice, it was clearly the man of the couple who determined the movie choice.   Your amusement disappears, though, when your friend continues, “She sounded sweet, but she just pushed until she got her way.”

Dr. Shelley Taylor, a social psychologist at UCLA, knows why you and your friend could have heard the same conversation but come to opposite judgments about who produced the end result.  It was a small accident of seating arrangements:  You were positioned to observe the exchange over the shoulder of the woman, making the man more visible and salient, while your friend had the reverse point of view.  Taylor and her colleagues conducted a series of experiments in which observers watched and listened to conversations that had been carefully scripted so neither discussion partner contributed more than the other.  Some observers watched from a perspective that allowed them to see the back of one or another discussant and the face of the second; other observers’ perspectives allowed them to see both faces equally (from the side).  All the observers were then asked to judge who had more influence in the discussion over its tone, content, and direction. The outcomes were always the same:  These ratings of responsibility corresponded with the visibility of the discussants’ faces. Whoever’s face was more visible was judged to be the more influential.

This means that, if we can get people to direct their visual attention to a person, product, or event, it will immediately seem more influential to them.  People believe that, if they’ve paid special attention to an item, it must be influential enough to warrant that attention.  But that’s not true because attention can be channeled to an item by factors unrelated to its significance, such as distinctive colors, which nonetheless increase observers’ estimation of the item’s significance.

 


Research: directing visual attention can influence perceptions.

 

Your What Depends on Your Where

I love the personal example you share about the geography of influence. When you wrote on campus, it was radically different than when you wrote at home. It immediately resonated with me, too, because I’ve seen styles change when writing at a courthouse, in a corporate office, or at home. Based on your research, to maximize effectiveness, what recommendations would you share?

When I began writing my first book for a general audience, I was on a leave of absence at a university other than my own.  Of course, I filled my campus office there with my professional books, journals, articles, and files. In town, I’d leased an apartment and would try to work on the book from a desk there, too.  But the environment around that desk was importantly different from that of my campus office–newspapers, magazines, tabletops, and television shows took the place of scientific publications, textbooks, filing cabinets, and conversations with colleagues.

Writing in those separate places produced an effect I didn’t anticipate and didn’t even notice:  The work I’d done at home was miles better than what I’d done at the university because it was decidedly more appropriate for the general audience I’d envisioned.  Surprised, I wondered how it could be that despite a clear grasp of my desired market, I couldn’t write for it properly while in my university office.  Only in retrospect was the answer obvious.  Anytime I lifted or turned my head, the sightlines from my on-campus desk brought me into contact with cues linked to an academic approach and its specialized vocabulary, grammar, and style of communication.

 

Research: what you say or do immediately before the appeal affects success.

 

It didn’t matter what I knew (somewhere in my head) about the traits and preferences of my intended readers.  There were few cues in that environment to spur me to think routinely and automatically of those individuals as I wrote.  From my desk at home, though, the cues were matched to the task.  There, I could harmonize with my audience much more successfully.  So here’s my recommendation for leaders:  When writing for any particular audience—clients, colleagues, employees—put a photo of a typical member of the audience in the corner of your computer screen as you write.  That photo will be an automatic, unconscious reminder of your audience and their communication styles, which will allow you to write in a way that is aligned with those styles.  I do that regularly now, and it works for me.

 


Writing Tip: put a photo of a typical audience member on the corner of your screen.

 

Relationships Determine the Result

Winners Give Just A Little Bit More

Expend Just A Little More Effort

The Olympics offers us innumerable lessons on leadership and winning.

Watching some of my favorite competitions, I am once again reminded of the razor-thin margins that separate the top from the bottom.

 

“A winner is just a loser who tried one more time.” –George Augustus Moore

 

In many events, the difference between the treasured gold medal and not placing at all is nearly undetectable. A first-place finish often can be measured only by going out into the hundredth of a second. Many of us remember watching Michael Phelps win his 7th Gold medal by a finger tip. Without the power of technology, and slow motion replays, it can be questionable who won an event.

 

“You become a champion by fighting one more round.” –James Corbett

 

That fraction of a second reminds me of how winners often give just a little bit more:

  • The bodybuilder who performs just 1 more rep every practice
  • The swimmer who practices by pushing just 1 more lap
  • The sales person who wins makes just 1 more call
  • The football player who spends just 1 extra minute at practice
  • The leader who writes just 1 more thank-you note
  • The friend who pens 1 note of encouragement
  • The writer who writes 1 more page
  • The student who reads just 1 more chapter
  • The runner who pushes 1 more mile
  • The coach who coaxes her team to 1 more victory

 

Disciplined activity is what moves us into the direction of success.

 

“The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” –Thomas Edison

 

+1 Your Day Today

Consistently giving +1 to our goals is often what creates the winning edge.

The Secret Weapon That Solves Your Toughest Sales Challenges

Dealstorming 

Is it possible to increase innovation in sales and achieve higher growth?

How can diverse perspectives increase your sales results?

Is there a consistent way to increase the likelihood of closing your biggest deals?

Does your organization have a high-potential opportunity?

 

Last year, I was presenting at a conference in Africa. The theme of the conference was based on an African proverb:

 

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” –African Proverb

 

That night, as I enjoyed a memorable dinner with the unique, powerful sound of an African choir ringing in my ears, I reflected on this proverb. Its wisdom struck me in a new way at a deep level. So many major corporate initiatives are stymied because one person wants to act alone. The motivation to act alone may be rooted in the idea of a hero, or it may be simply because someone wants to demonstrate personal accountability.

Still, going farther requires collaboration.

 

“The best sales-driven companies have developed the habit of conscious collaboration.” –Tim Sanders

 

Debunking Creativity Myths

Recent studies on innovation and creativity have debunked the myth that innovation happens in the eureka moment. I’ve interviewed numerous experts who tell me creativity happens more in teams than alone.

And so, when I read Tim Sander’s new book Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges, I found myself smiling as I saw these truths eloquently memorialized and backed up with research and experience.

Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges is a monumental book not only for sales leaders but also for all corporate leaders. Whether saving, reclaiming, or winning new business, the techniques Tim shares are proven and actionable. Every organization wants to improve its results, and this is the best blueprint for achieving higher growth that I’ve seen in years.

But, beyond the dealstorm, the techniques in this book teach collaborative practices. The relationships built in this process do not stop with the sale, but continue, fostering a sense of purpose well beyond the deal.

I’m convinced that the techniques in Dealstorming will help you close more business, build better relationships, and increase your organization’s creativity.

 

“Innovating is not a way of doing things; it’s a mode of thinking.” –Tim Sanders

 

How to Win the Complex Sale 

Many people think that the sales process is impossible to define and one where you just go with your gut. In your new book, Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges, you reveal that the sales process is just the opposite: a structured, repeatable process any team can use to win the large, complex sale. What experience and research led you to this conclusion?

Over my 30+ year sales career, I’ve noticed that despite the sharpest of perspectives, without a process you get a mess. The Funnel Activity Management System has been in place for decades, where managers focus on key metrics like cold calls or closing ratios in order to produce a predictable level of sales. Or so one might think.

Throughout that process, the rep used his or her gut feeling to determine which product to pitch, how hard to close and when to move on. But today, that system is necessary, but no longer sufficient for landing high quality sales.

Around the turn of the 21st century, I began to develop the sales collaboration process I call Dealstorming. At Yahoo, while leading the ValueLab and then serving as Chief Solutions Officer, I had the opportunity to participate in 40+ strategic selling situations, where theories were tested and then measured in dollars and cents. Over the last decade, I’ve refined this process through my consultancy, where we’ve participated in 60+ dealstorms at a variety of business-to-business companies. The range of experiences has helped me create a scalable process where managers could leverage a few successful Dealstorms to train the Account Executive on how to run their own.

In writing this book, I have interviewed 200+ sales leaders to understand how they’ve approached problem solving at the deal level, and what works in today’s global-social-mobile world. Collectively, all of these experiences have produced a way of innovating at the deal level that will work for small businesses and enterprises alike. Sometimes the ‘storms will be terrific trios and in other cases, an alliance of many.

 

Copyright Tim Sanders. Used by Permission Copyright Tim Sanders. Used by Permission

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Know the 4 Levels of the Sale