November 5, 2018

Why Storytelling Matters and How to Do It

When you get the story right, how powerful can that be? Pretty powerful.

When I started my business 7  years ago, I had hopes for what it would turn into, but nothing was certain. Maybe that has a familiar ring to it.

I just knew I was on a mission to help other businesses thrive in predictable, repeatable ways. That’s how this chapter of my story began.

Stories have the power to inspire us, tug at our heartstrings, all of that great stuff. Stories also have the power to persuade people toward a course of action.

That inspiration, that engagement, and especially that persuasion can really be a game-changer in your business. That’s why I want to bring you some actionable intel on why storytelling matters and how to do it as part of your biz dev strategy.

Why Does Storytelling Matter?

We think we are persuaded by strong, logical, data-driven information, but neuroscience tells us a different, well, story. People remember stories. They don’t remember lectures.

Back in September, I had the pleasure of welcoming Henry Devries back for a return visit to the Onward Nation podcast. He literally wrote the book on this subject, Persuade with Story.

I invite you to listen to the full Episode #803 for some fantastic insights.

Henry shared with me about how story creates a strong connection with whoever is reading or hearing it. Stories are emotional. They get a person emotionally, not just at an intellectual level. Just giving people facts and percentages and data and sales figures will not cut it. That’s not what persuades people to action.

Another insight from Henry: stories simplify things. A how-to manual, some big list of instructions can be overwhelming. But telling a story about getting something done – something we might need to get done in the near future – story makes it easier to hear that and do it ourselves.

But the main reason for storytelling is one you know – one you feel when you see a great movie or read a really good book. You are right there in the emotional experience of the person the story is about.

On a subconscious level, we become the character in the story.

So bringing this from the theater to your business – when you tell a story of solving a problem for some other client, a prospective client will more likely see themselves in that situation. And it’s like you’re giving someone the experience of working with you before they ever actually work with you.

Story is a way of connecting with people in a real and direct way. Those connections lead to trust. And trust is at the heart of business development.

Storytelling is just plain smart business.

So why does storytelling matter? Holy bananas, if you can inspire trust, and persuade people through the power of story, why would you not?

Maybe because you’re not quite sure how. So let’s dive into the How of storytelling.

How to Tell Compelling Stories

Storytelling can be used in all kinds of ways in your business. Not just for biz dev, but with employees too.  You know how saying, “go do that” sometimes doesn’t really inspire your employees?

That’s because “go do that” is less inspiring than, say, telling a story about a big win for the company that lets the person know they need to go do that, and it might just result in something cool like what happened in your story.

It does not have to be complicated. I can’t emphasize that enough. Stories are simple. Henry Devries says there are basically three characters:

Hero – There is the hero, the main character. For the purposes of business development – now this is important – the hero is not you! The hero is the client. You are telling stories that bring out the hero in your client.

Villain – Every good story needs a villain or a challenge holding the hero back. How can our hero overcome this challenge? How can they beat that evil villain?

Mentor – Enter the mentor. As business owners, we are Yoda to the client’s Luke Skywalker in this story. As Henry puts it, the mentor helps “Take the hero from mess to success.”

One caveat: People don’t want to be rescued. They want to have agency in the story. Yoda doesn’t fight Luke’s battles (maybe he does, I’ll admit I’m not super-familiar with the Star Wars universe – but that is NO reason to click “unsubscribe!”)

So use storytelling that shows how your guidance can get your hero client out of bad circumstances.

Fun fact: Henry Devries and I have a mutual friend, Michael Hague. Back in the deep mists of time, I invited Michael as a guest on Onward Nation Episode 184 to talk about – you guessed it – storytelling.

Michael is a script consultant who has worked on films with the likes of Will Smith, Julia Roberts, and Tom Cruise. He’s good at what he does. He’s an expert at the How-to of telling a great story.

I will leave you with a great Michael shared for awesome storytelling:

8 Key Steps to Create a Good Story:

  1. Identify the hero of the story — who is the main character?
  2. Create a setup — describe the life the hero was living before the story began
  3. Present the hero with opportunity (and create empathy in the process)
  4. Put the character in a new situation based on the opportunity
  5. Create a clear, visible goal with a clear finish line in the end
  6. Create conflict
  7. The climax of the story — paint a picture of what success was like
  8. The aftermath — paint a picture of the new life because of making the journey

The story of your business is still unfolding. We face challenges every day. But by using those challenges, and telling stories of heroic clients we’ve guided toward a better future – well that’s creating a better future for ourselves in the process, isn’t it? You bet it is!

Stephen Woessner

Stephen is the CEO of Predictive ROI and host of the Onward Nation podcast. He is the author of two bestselling books, speaker, trainer, and his digital marketing insights have been featured in SUCCESS, Entrepreneur, The Washington Post, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and other media.