The late Steve Jobs functioned as Apple’s chief storyteller, engaging audiences by sharing stories that focused on the company’s signature — great design. His stories were effective because they aligned with customer experiences and expectations.
Spin or propaganda
Today’s customers don’t want spin or propaganda. They want truth and authenticity. They listen to salespeople who tell compelling stories about their products and services, sharing genuine, credible and reliable information. Stories about problem solving, creativity and innovation fuel your target audience.
When telling a story, avoid jargon and try to use a conversational speaking style. Use short sentences composed with simple language. Make your stories engaging by using dialogue and characters’ real names. Repeat and emphasize words or phrases that capture the story’s essence.
Connect with the audience
Sharing stories creates bonds and strengthens relationships with prospects and customers. Any time you can bring your audience into the story instead of just telling them a story, it magnifies the effectiveness of your message. To be effective, stories should connect with the audience. Customers don’t want to hear stories that have no impact on their needs. They may listen closely if your story resolves a problem they may be facing.
Basic story components
A well-told business story isn’t the same as a romance novel or a movie. It has a simpler structure. The basic components of a story are Context, Action and Result.
- What is the story’s setting, location and time frame?
- Who is the primary person in the plot?
- What is the person’s goal?
- What impediments does that person face?
The action is what happens in the story up to the outcome.
The reason you told the story lies in the plot’s outcome.
Stories may gain buy-in from prospects and customers, whether they inspire change or highlight a facet of your product or service. To challenge listeners’ assumptions, or to encourage them to draw the same conclusions you’ve drawn or to show the value of their efforts, tell stories like these:
- Success stories. Depict a positive outcome with a story about an experience with another customer. The element of surprise is usually effective, so try to add an unforeseen twist or result leading to an unpredictable ending. When possible, frame your conclusion as a violation of some major assumption your customer holds.
- Inspirational stories. Stories are great motivational tools. Tales of people overcoming extraordinary obstacles never fail to inspire, especially if your product or service impacted the outcome. Facts and logic always take a backseat to emotions.
- Failure stories. Stories about failure teach customers what not to do. “Two-roads” stories illustrate how choices affect a company’s results. They can be particularly effective when the story features a customer who failed to buy a product or service that would have saved money in the long run.
Adapted from: Lead with a Story by Paul Smith, director of consumer & communication research at Proctor & Gamble.