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Use storytelling at work

Did you hear any captivating stories as you sat around the Thanksgiving table this past week? If so, you might have noticed that the speaker used certain techniques to draw you in–vivid descriptions, facial expressions, a narrative arc. A good storyteller makes these things seem natural.

If you think about it, storytelling has A LOT of cross-application when it comes to work. In the past, I’ve discussed how it can be a powerful sales tool, but it can be useful to anyone in almost any industry. Use storytelling techniques to:

  • Be a more engaging, charismatic leader
  • Keep others’ attention when you’re presenting during a meeting
  • Snag a new client
  • Make a convincing argument or illustrate an idea
  • Present a point to your team

Ok. You’re probably convinced that storytelling is useful, but it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to everyone. How do you work on developing your storytelling techniques?

1. Practice

You probably won’t be a natural storyteller at first, but the key is to PRACTICE. Think about scenarios in which storytelling might come in handy, and then make an effort to do it. Be sure to practice the story you’d like to tell beforehand–do it aloud and in front of a mirror to work out any rough patches.

2. Consider the main point

Your story can’t just be a story. It has to have some kind of relevance to the topic at hand. If, for instance, you’re trying to prove the effectiveness of a product, tell a story about how the product helped a specific person. If you’d like to demonstrate to a potential new client that your company is trustworthy, tell about a time that your team came through in a pinch.

3. Remember the classic story arc

Every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning should hook your audience, while the end should clearly give the main message and potentially be a call to action. If your story is jumbled, others will have trouble deciphering the main message or become disengaged.

4. Use a “lead-in”

It’s odd to jump straight into a story with no lead-in. You’ll want to tie the story to the topic that’s being discussed before plunging in. Frame up your story with a lead-in like one of the following:

  • “I am confident product XYZ is a good value to our customers. One example that comes to mind is…”
  • “I think it would be beneficial if we changed to system X. One reason is that…”
  • “This reminds me of something I witnessed last year…”
  • “We have to consider statistics, of course, but anecdotally, I once noticed…”
  • “I’d like to give you an example of why I think X would be a good idea…”

5. Practice some more

You may not hit the nail on the head the first time you try storytelling. Keep at it and modify your techniques as need-be. Does your delivery need work? Do you need to use better vocal inflection? Are you having trouble articulating your main point?

Assess, try again, repeat. Skilled storytellers don’t develop overnight.

 

Need more storytelling techniques? Feel free to contact me for guidance.

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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ditch the elevator pitch

For years, we’ve been taught to hone our elevator pitches—those thirty-second sound bites about ourselves that are theoretically meant to engage a complete stranger. The problem? The typical elevator pitch usually comes across as canned and overly-salesy. The eyes glaze over, the listener makes any excuse they can to get away. You might manage to shove a business card into your listener’s hand before they dash away…

It’s not surprising that this kind of approach doesn’t work. But, what does?

According to international sales speaker Kim Duke, you should ditch the traditional elevator pitch in favor of storytelling. Tell a little something about yourself in story form. Make it interesting and unique.

What should your story involve? According to Kim Duke:

  • PEOPLE. You’re not talking about gadgets and services – you’re talking about people. It is conversational, interesting to listen to.
  • CURIOSITY. You lead with something that captures their attention – something that they are struggling with.
  • DON’T SOUND CANNED. There’s a difference between being passionate or being an actress. If you’re too dramatic, or too flat – people TUNE YOU OUT both ways! Practice your introduction but don’t sound like a robot.
  • GET TO THE POINT. What is your claim to fame? This is where you can include a little Zip (e.g. My clients on average increase their sales by 50% or more.)
  • CALL TO ACTION. People should feel inspired to want more, learn more, go to your website, ask for your card…make them think!

And don’t forget to LISTEN to what others have to say. A good listening ear can go a long way.

Remember to always be your authentic self when telling your story. Don’t stretch the truth or just “tell ’em what they want to hear.” Lay out your story and practice it in the mirror or with a friend. That way, you’ll feel more natural when the time comes to actually talk to a potential client. Above all, be yourself!

 

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the power of storytelling in sales

“A good salesperson knows how to talk; a great salesperson knows how to tell a story.” Rivka Willick, story coach and writer

It is human nature to listen to and trust stories. Ever since we were children, we’ve been surrounded by narratives—on television, in movies, in books, from our grandparents. Sure, stories are fun, but they are also powerful and there are scientific reasons as to why people are attracted to stories. According to neuroeconomics pioneer Paul Zak, “Stories that are highly engaging and contain key elements — including a climax and denouement – can elicit powerful empathic responses by triggering the release Oxytocin. Often referred to as the ‘trust hormone,’ this neurochemical promotes connection and encourages people to feel empathy.”

So, how can you use this powerful technique to gain trust and win sales? Here are a few methods:

  1. Keep it relevant

It’s great if you have an amazing story about fly-fishing in Montana, but is that really what your prospective wants to hear? Instead, focus on the material you’re presenting. How can you bring it to life with a relevant story? Perhaps you have a tidbit about how your product positively affected someone? Or maybe you have an interesting story about the products’ development or value? Brainstorm and jot some ideas down on a notepad. Then, run them by your co-workers or friends to gain their input.

  1. Have a beginning, middle, and end

This point may seem obvious, but it is absolutely crucial. Storyteller Kambri Crews said in an interview with Entrepreneur.com that, “The beginning should hook your audience, while the end, the call to action, must be clear.” If your story is jumbled, your prospective client may have trouble deciphering the main message or become disengaged.

  1. Remember the “elements of a good story”

Sales Benchmark Index has some great advice on using basic storytelling elements to create a compelling tale. They break down a story into the Hero, Stimulus, Conflict, Crossroad, and Moral. Here is an explanation of the elements:

  • Sympathetic main character, AKA the Hero. The audience should be able to see themselves in the hero and the situation.
  • The Hero encounters a Stimulus, which leads them in the direction of resolution or transformation.
  • Tension or a Conflict is exposed. Our Hero now must maneuver challenges and obstacles.
  • Crossroad where the final transformation takes place. In your Use Case this is where the customer purchased your solution.
  • The final chapter in the story is referred to as the Moral of the Story. The Hero has navigated the Conflict and appears transformed in an ideal state.
  1. Practice, practice, practice

Like most things in life, you have to practice your pitch in order to perfect it. First develop it on your own and practice giving your pitch in front of a mirror. Then, practice with others, allowing them to interrupt or make comments (which is likely to happen in a real-life sales situation). Practice sounding natural and unrehearsed and don’t forget to let your body language be relaxed, open, and friendly.

Need help developing your story? Feel free to contact me for guidance.

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