It is hard to argue the value and impact of storytelling in business. Great stories capture people's attention, imaginations, and emotions. Compelling stories inspire everyday buyers around the world. If you're like most people we talk to, you'll likely remember an excellent keynote speech or the opening of a C-Level presentation delivered by inspiring speakers with "the gift." Perhaps you even feel great storytellers are born with this gift. Ahhh, but stories can be told by anyone and many different situations and venues and, they can all be told by you! The reality is that almost every day, you have the opportunity to create stronger emotional connections through storytelling. So, here's my question: when you intend to persuade or motivate an audience to take action, do you always inform and educate or, do you use storytelling to shift their thinking?
Being able to use stories effectively in lots of situations reminds me of my favorite kinds of tools. I have a multi-tool for my mountain bike that can fix just about anything during a ride. I have my 9 in 1 tool for painting, scraping, and prying. And I have my Insta-Pot for cooking rice, steaming vegetables, and even cooking fall-off-the-bone ribs! Just like my favorite tools, stories can be re-purposed and used in many everyday business situations.
In our business storytelling workshop (Storytelling2Win!), we teach all types of business professionals the value of everyday stories, how to quickly think of story concepts, and how to deliver them in a way that makes them look like you were just "born with the gift." In this blog, we will explore several everyday opportunities to master the art of storytelling in business settings.
Here's the reality, if you aren't intentional about telling stories in a variety of business situations, you're missing valuable opportunities to influence your audience. Storytelling can magnify the key message you're trying to communicate, heighten your audience's awareness of these critical points, and make them memorable. Below is a partial list of situations you can use stories in PreSales, Sales, Business Development, and Client Success.
- Opening a demo - You have a demonstration that will contain several segments. At 2Win, we call these segments "demo episodes." You know there will be a new audience for each episode, so you need to make sure everyone sees the big picture. Wrap a story around your demo theme and support it with imagery that helps the various stakeholders understand how their interests are connected to the bigger strategic goals of the project.
- Opening a demo episode - Open demo episodes with stories that deliver a theme you can revisit throughout the episode. The story can be wrapped around presenting an insight, presenting discovery findings, presenting a case study, or using an analogy. (More on those below.)
- Delivering the context of a demo topic (opening Tell) Many people approach a demo from the perspective of the software they need to show. Imagine the impact you could have if you regularly use short stories, such as the challenges they experienced today in accomplishing this topic, to set the context before you begin to show software.
- Delivering the benefit (closing Tell) of a demo topic – Business benefits often have a personal impact. Consider sharing the key benefit of a demo topic using a short, personalized story directed at the primary beneficiary of this demo topic. You won't do this all the time, but instead selectively for key demo topics that carry significant impact.
- Presenting a case study - Case studies are presented in various settings but often lack focus or intention. Make them memorable by wrapping a story around the case study that highlights the primary value of the case study to the audience in front of you.
- Presenting an insight - Instead of presenting an insight clinically, consider wrapping a story around the insight to motivate your prospect or client to change. Be sure to include your perspective on the insight and why it is relevant to your agenda.
- Presenting discovery findings - Many presales professionals open a demo or a demo episode with discovery findings focused on features or processes. Consider enhancing those findings with a story that emotionally prepares your audience for the solutions to your findings.
- Introducing a team member (humanizing) – At 2Win, we teach the value of elevating the credibility of a team member through a proper introduction. Consider humanizing your team member with a short story that your prospect or client will find interesting.
- Opening a meeting – Too many meetings begin without clarity and agreement on the purpose of the meeting. If you're the one that scheduled the meeting, consider delivering the primary purpose of the meeting with a story that opens the minds and hearts of the attendees to your intention. The story will help align everyone towards a common objective to best contribute their talents and ideas to achieve the intended outcome.
- Opening a presentation – World-class presenters capture the attention of their audience with their opening story. Consider how you could use a story at the beginning of your presentation to focus your audience's attention as well.
- Presenting at a meetup - If you've been invited to present at a meetup, open your talk with a short story that introduces the primary message of your talk.
- Presenting at a breakout session - Many of you may find yourselves being asked to present a topic at a breakout session for a user group or industry event. Use stories to preview your key talking points, thus making your content memorable.
- Delivering a webinar - After a webinar opens and the majority of the participants are online, tell a story that captures the attention and imagination of the audience and delivers your primary message. Revisit that story throughout the webinar.
- Handling an objection - Everyone deals with objections. Once you fully understand the energy and purpose behind the objection, consider wrapping your response around a short story that helps the person with the objection understand that you empathize with their perspective and have helped previous customers address similar challenges. Now you're in a position to find a middle ground.
- Negotiating a price - Stories can help soften price negotiations by opening the prospect's mind to the true value your products and services deliver, thus justifying your pricing and minimizing discounting.
- Presenting a business plan – If you find yourself needing to deliver a business plan, the value of your plan will be more understandable if you use a story to illustrate how your plan connects to your audience's motivations.
- Internal request for funding – If you need funding for a project or personnel, consider enhancing your figures with a story that illuminates the return your request will provide to the organization.
- Internal request for personnel – If you're a leader and need to justify adding team members, enhance your request with a story that illustrates the value of the additional expense. Be sure to connect the key talking points to the person's motivations that will ultimately approve the addition of personnel.
- Kickoff of a project – Give the start of a client project a boost with a great story that focuses the project participants on the project's positive results rather than the pain of the change.
- Renewal justification presentation - If you're in client success and responsible for renewals, consider opening your renewal presentation with a success story that includes members of their user community.
This article wasn't meant to be an exhaustive list of places you can use storytelling in business, but rather a way to help you approach everyday situations from a storyteller's perspective. We'd love to hear your thoughts about where you've used stories to enhance your messaging in the comments section. Story On!