Sales and Marketing Advice
The stories you tell yourself are as important as the stories you tell others
Why do you work so hard to build your company? Fame, fortune, the fun of it? Or is there something greater driving you?
The way you operate and feel about your business is a metaphor for life. Commitment, excitement, discovery, adventure – as well as uncertainty and fear. There’s a good chance you have a gnawing feeling deep inside that even though you’re enjoying the journey and reaping the rewards, or will soon, something is missing.
There is a reason why you started a new venture or took on a different and unfamiliar role for your company. Here’s the question; was it the right thing to do, driving you towards something greater, or filling a void? Usually, it’s a bit of both.
It’s the same for your customers, team and investors. As a leader, the stories you tell yourself are as important as the narratives you tell business connections, even your friends. Figuring out what’s missing and how you feel about that is a powerful first step in telling an effective business story – because it’s personal and that will resonate with others.
The best stories have a main character, a goal, and an obstacle that is overcome. You are the main character who has dreams to do something important (the goal) and a villain is blocking the path to fulfillment. Notice I said “fulfillment” and not “success”.
We know who you are, but who is the villain? It may be a person, a group of people, and possibly an event or a competitor. Maybe it’s something deep within you. Kicking down the barriers is hard. It takes self-realization and determination. The result is satisfaction, joy, and fulfillment. Success quickly follows.
Here’s the thing: business storytelling involves truth telling.
Although stories are not necessarily based on personal experiences – they can be “borrowed” – the underlying storyline must reflect the buyer’s reality as well as yours. The point it gets across to your audience is real and relevant.
Depending on the type of story you tell, you may or may not reveal your pain and triumph. After all, the people you speak with are the main character in their story. However, why you took the chosen path and how the result filled your personal or company’s void is the basis of your viewpoint. That in turn helps you and your company satisfy what’s missing for your buyer.
Actions need to align with intentions. The story you tell needs to helps align your actions with the goals of your customer. There are many types of stories you can tell. Here are two of the most important that you’ll use most often.
Are the people who work for you as committed to the company as you are? In most cases, no. It doesn’t have to be that way, but it’ll take more than a great compensation plan or free lunches and ping-pong tables in the break room to get buy-in from your team. Your story needs to inspire and more. Sharing your origin or founding story and why you took the leap gives the people around you a chance to feel as if they are part of a grand and ambitious quest. In other words, something bigger than their jobs. The “why” is the critical part of this story – the original vision that moved you (why), your zeal to make it happen (why), what barriers initially got in your way (why) and how the company finally busted through (why). The origin or founding story works great for investors, the press and customer too. This operates on several levels, connecting with people and placing them in the story. Why is this so powerful? Because it fills a hole within them just like it has for you.
Why is your company different? The heart of selling is convincing potential buyers that you bring huge differentiated value to the table, but you just can’t say, “we offer you great value”. You’ve got to express this in a concrete and compelling way. Yet, all too often we stumble with our elevator pitch, use meaningless buzzwords, or simply ramble on – clarity quickly drifts into the wilderness. It’s time to share your sales story. Be crystal clear about what you do for your customers by providing the “why” of how your business is different. Start with a real customer story that’s essentially a mini case study. Make sure it covers the questions most often asked by your prospects, or should be: the issues that led to the customer needing your product or service, the eureka moment, how the process worked, and the amazing benefits they received. If you stopped here, it’d be a good story for getting your points across briefly and clearly. However, to make this an outstanding story with enormous impact, add why your offering is different from your competitors and why other solution can’t cut it. This one-two punch of the mini business case and why your company is different will stick in the buyer’s brain. Use the sales story inside your company as well as with strategic channels, the press, and investors too. And just like your origin or founding story, it demonstrates how your business satisfies a great need, filling the void so nicely.
Rather than reinventing the wheel every time you speak to a buyer, these two stories will carry the day in most situations.
Sharon Stone, actress and film producer said, "There's nothing more free than standing centered in yourself.” Storytelling is much more than the pitches you’ve created to sell a product or an idea.
Be authentic. Engage and enjoy. Delight your audience telling your stories of journey and discovery, helping them reach their goals. Great things will follow.
Read earlier columns from Florida Trend's sales and marketing coach, Ron Stein.
Ron is the founder of FastPath Marketing & Selling. He works with tech-enabled companies, helping them find the fastest path to revenue with executive advising, business development coaching and consulting, as well as marketing and selling training. As an accomplished tech industry business leader and entrepreneur, Ron has served in top-level sales, marketing and business development roles ranging from emerging companies to global tech giants, including as the CEO of a venture-backed wireless startup. Ron is on the advisory board of the University of Florida’s two internationally recognized tech business incubators and writes a popular column on how to grow revenue in the award-winning Florida Trend business magazine. Learn more at FastPath Marketing & Selling. Ron can be reached at 727-642-4246 or by email.