The writer E.M. Forster defined memorable stories as “a fact plus an emotion.” His famous example: The king died, and then the queen died are two facts. However, The king died, and then the queen died of grief is a story.
In business conversation, an effective selling story doesn’t need to be a structural masterpiece full of hair-raising plot turns. All it needs is a concrete insight or anecdote. Consider this story:
“The corrupted customer file meant Cisco couldn’t invoice for three days. That’s $50 million in lost interest!”
This story is far more likely to move a prospect than a more abstract talking point such as “bad things happen when you don’t have a good data backup plan.”
What makes it so resonant? Emotion. Include at least one in every story you tell prospects. Empathy is an easy emotion to leverage — imagine being that poor IT guy at Cisco! — but don’t be afraid to tell stories with moments of humor, fear, or averted crisis. Emotional stories are far easier to remember than spreadsheet data.
A great approach for telling memorable stories is the SUCCESs framework outlined in Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Made to Stick. It’s a must-read for salesfolk. It explains why some ideas & stories capture people’s imaginations … and why others die on the vine.
Paul McGhee founded SharperAx in 2013. SharperAx develops role-play automation software.
This article is the third excerpt from “10 Best Practices for a Great Storytelling Program,” an eBook written by Paul McGhee, based on years of research and practice in delivering great story programs. To download the entire eBook from Sharperax.com click here.