Stories can teach, motivate and inspire. They also can sell.
When you share stories with customers, you draw them in and reach their emotions. And when it comes right down to it, most purchase decisions are made emotionally (even when we like to believe we are being rational and analytical).
Volumes have been written about ways to structure stories but quite simply your story should have an attention-grabbing opening, an introduction where you describe the problem, a middle section where a solution is proposed, and a conclusion where you communicate the benefits of acting on the proposed solution. That is your call to action.
Some of the most effective selling stories are told in 30 to 60 seconds. That’s right—commercials. As an example, think about almost any pharmaceutical advertisement. It starts out with someone experiencing a limitation because of their medical condition, then the drug is presented, and in the conclusion they are doing what they could not do before the medication. A full story is presented in no more than under a minute.
Stories can educate customers about a need they have and how you fill it, subtly demonstrate your expertise, create empathy, suggest new uses for your products, train new customers and employees, and motivate listeners to take action. Saying your product can do x, or describing the benefits it provides, is not as interesting or memorable as describing the experience another customer had with the product and how it helped them.
Of course, stories can also be used to illustrate the perils of not buying your product. I spent many years in the insurance industry and heard lots of the, “What would become of your family if something happened to you?” kinds of stories. Although those stories can be effective, I prefer a more positive approach.
So where can you find stories? Those from your own experience, or that of your customers or employees, are most effective. For one thing, they are original. There was a point in time where every motivational speaker in the world was using the “throwing the starfish from the beach into the ocean” story. Everyone had heard it so many times that when a speaker would start to tell it, you could feel the oxygen being sucked out of the room. An original story keeps your audience engaged and wondering how it will turn out.
Your stories can be used in many ways. Tell them when you are in one-on-one meetings, doing sales presentations or giving speeches. Write them down and put them in sales letters, brochures and other written sales materials. Assemble the stories into a book or booklet. Publish them in your employee or client newsletter. Use stories on your Web site in text form, or in streaming audio or video. Record stories and give them to customers on CD, play them when callers are put on hold, or use them in radio or television advertising.
Stories create an emotional connection with your customers that they will carry with them.