We are all tellers of stories. Stories are how we connect with each other. Friendship is built around repeated shared stories because they build and bond the friendship.
In business, it is easy to forget the power of stories. We get caught up with the brand message, the product or service we are advertising, creating funnels to ensure a steady stream of clients at various customer journey stages. We track our sales figures, the views on our website and the click-through rates (CTRs). These ingredients are all essential in running a profitable and sustainable business; however, there are some important reasons why we must become storytellers.
These are powerful reasons to improve our skill at storytelling.
Business is never just about the product or service a B2B or B2C company sells. Ultimately, it is about the power of human connection. From the barista at the local coffee shop, who learns the customers' names and knows what each one has without them having to ask through to the real-estate agent who builds trust and confidence in buyers and sellers to be effective. It is the power of this connection and the trust it creates that results in effective sales.
The desire and drive for connection are strong within the community due to the lockdowns and isolation that occurred during the COVID pandemic. People want to rebuild their sense of connection with each other and the community, which is why compelling storytelling is so powerful at the moment.
Stories connect because they create trust. Sharing a story is an act of vulnerability. In all relationships, we learn to, as it were, "test" the relationship by gradually revealing more and more about ourselves; we share more stories that are personal. We have all experienced situations where we thought we could trust a person and share something only to find the other person did not respect or value our confidence. This breaks our trust and confidence in the person.
Sharing a story creates trust. However, it is important the story that is shared is appropriate and at the right level. If a person does not read the social cues and shares an inappropriate story or a too personal story for a sales situation, it can destroy rather than create trust.
This is one reason why stories are often avoided, and sales reps are encouraged to just "stick with the facts" about the benefits and advantages of the product or service being sold. Yet trust is an essential aspect of all sales, and a story told at the right level and in the right way is a quick bridge to building trust.
Stories can build brand credibility. Clients and customers are generally much more sales-savvy today. The volume and speed at which advertising material comes to us each day mean we quickly filter out products or services we think are scams or not credible.
More than previous generations, we want to do business with companies that are credible, ethical, and concerned about the topics that concern us. This is where storytelling becomes essential for companies to convey to communities what they are doing in climate change or sustainability.
When a brand can convey stories of what they are doing to promote sustainable practices or how they are supporting fair trading practices, they have more credibility. Clients are more likely to buy from those companies that support their issues and concerns. Stories are a powerful way to build credibility.
It is important to remember that the salesperson or company must be authentic in telling stories to create trust and credibility. Telling a story to gain more sales is quickly seen by customers and destroys their confidence in their organisation.
Hence, storytelling mustn't become a sales gimmick.
It is crucial both as businesses (B2B & B2C) and as people selling products or services, we learn the skills to tell stories effectively. Just as an effective story can build connection and trust, a story that is not told correctly can break a relationship.
be clear about the purpose of the story you are telling
How is the story's purpose connected to your client and their concerns? Does the story build a connection with their concerns and show them the validity of their concerns and what could happen if they do not address these concerns? Or does the story show how your product or service meets and answers the client's problems?
The story needs to connect with the listener and resonate with their concerns or issues. This is one thing that many community benefit organisations (not-for-profits) miss in the stories they tell about the work they do. They tell the story of a client and the impact they have made in their client's life and use this story as a fund-raising strategy. While it may work in some situations, such as children with chronic long-term illnesses, this tactic doesn't have any traction with many funding strategies. The reason is that it does not link with or connect to the person who the organisation is seeking a donation from.
We must be clear about the purpose of the story we are telling and how this builds connection.
KEEP IT SHORT
In a sales situation, no one likes a rambler. Stories in the sales situation have to be short, punchy, straight to the point. Wearing a client down with a 'never-ending' story is not effective. If you are clear about the purpose, a compelling story can be told in three-four short sentences.
Know how to end the story
It is equally important to know how to end the story, to answer the client's questions and bring it back into your process. Whether you are going through a proposal or a sales process, telling a story that does not integrate with the process becomes disruptive and jarring.
The customer gets pulled away from the immediate process as they try to work out the story's relevance and what it might mean. This break can potentially stop what you had initially set out to achieve with the person.
The same three steps apply when telling a story from a brand perspective. Know the purpose of the story and how it fits into the brand. How does the story highlight and reinforce the main features of the brand? How does the story build the connection between the brand and customers?
Keep the brand story short, sharp, and relatable and know how to end the story back at the brand.
Storytelling is powerful. It builds trust and connection in effective ways to build credibility, authenticity, and authority. It needs to be developed and practised to be effective like any skill.
Compelling storytelling connects with clients.