Bill was a complete stranger. He approached me a couple of weeks ago in a Dallas convention center before my keynote. I thanked him for the support and taking the time to say hello. As we started to chat about the conference and my keynote, I asked for a little feedback. “Do you remember what it was about the talk two years ago that resonated with you?”
He didn’t hesitate. “That story about Lily at Starbucks. It stayed with me.”
He didn’t remember the details of my three best ideas for generating more referral sales. He didn’t repeat back the two questions you should ask when auditing a sales call.
What he remembered was that story.
The Power of Story
Stories inspire us and help us invest in an idea more completely. They offer an emotional connection that goes beyond a data set. They compel us to take action. Stories are the most powerful form of persuasive communication, and the best stories can endure the test of time.
Influencers master the art of story. More and more, the top salespeople I encounter are also gifted storytellers. They’re able to draw on a deep reservoir of compelling, contextually relevant examples of customer impact. Through stories, they can demonstrate how they were able to support a customer or guide them to a successful outcome. Telling a great story is a new sales best practice, and a competency managers should look for in new sales hires.
Making the Customer the Hero of Your Story
When you think about how you can use stories in your branding, marketing, or selling, consider how you can make the customer the hero of your story.
The stories that tend to move us the most aren’t about big business or brands. They’re about people. Search for the human element in the lesson you want to share, and you’ll immediately elevate your story’s impact.
Of course, that takes a little work. It’s easy to tell stories that are focused on ourselves. To make the customer the hero, start by asking your customer questions. Build your narrative in collaboration with your customer. I’ve found that the best customers are often willing to share their stories, and the best salespeople are deeply obsessed with customer outcomes precisely for that reason. They’re always looking for the opportunity to construct their next compelling story of customer success.
Today, the best salespeople are storytellers.
My Favorite Story
The story about Lily at Starbucks that Bill remembered is one of my all-time favorites. It was an experience that resonated with me personally and in sharing the story, I’ve seen the impact it’s had on others. Occasionally I’ve referred to it as “the Lily effect.”
— Shelby Regan (@Shelbyregan) September 19, 2014
Today, the best stories can travel in ways that would have been impossible a few years ago. Because stories move quickly, everyone who is in the business of inspiring others (and who isn’t?) should consider these two questions:
- How are you telling your stories?
- Who else is helping you tell them?
On my way back from Dallas last week, I paid a visit to Lily to thank her again for letting me share her story. I’m fortunate that she’s still pouring happiness in MSP!
Ryan Estis helps progressive companies embrace change, attack opportunity and achieve breakthrough performance. Delivering more than 75 live events annually, Ryan provides high-impact keynote presentations and professional development in partnership with the world’s best brands. Learn more about Ryan.
Ryan Estis is a Keynote Speaker & Management Consultant blogging about business performance.