Items from February, 2012
When You Open Your Mouth, Have a Point
When ever I think of stories, I’m always reminded of one of the best movie lines of all time from a movie full of great ones, “Trains, Planes and Automobiles”. Steve Martin (Neal) has already had his fill of John Candy’s (Del) character and finally loses it after hearing another of Del’s stories:
“And by the way, you know, when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea … have a POINT. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener.”
Don’t you wish every encounter with a seller started with a story that had a point? Lately all my dealings with sales folks have been maddening. I feel like asking them, “what’s your point, because I really don’t understand what you want and why I should listen to you”. It seems that sellers are too busy focusing on the WHAT and HOW, that they almost always forget the WHY. Without the WHY, there is no story and nothing for me to connect to for context that makes the story interesting and makes me curious.
Start with the Point
Just once I wish a sales person who has never met me before would take some time and do enough research so that he starts the conversation with a very clear point. Let me give you an example. Since I deal with a large number of CEOs, I have found that having stories that relate to beliefs and challenges that they typically deal with to be important to make that vital connection at the start of conversation. One of my favorites goes like this:
“Hi John, can I share a story with you about another CEO who believed that their must be a simpler way for his sales team to talk about his company (product) with his target buyers?”
The answer is usually yes, which then gives me permission to spend 2 to 3 minutes to tell that story. Notice the words I used.
Can I share a story …
About another CEO who believed …
Everyone likes to hear a story. That opens the door and relaxes our brain, but the next line is the point of the story and provides the listener with the reason WHY I want to tell them about WHAT I did for that other CEO and HOW I solved his problem.
The Golden Circle – From the Inside Out
Simon Sinek wrote a fascinating book entitled, “Start With Why”, that explains that as listeners we process information from the inside out. It all starts with our emotional brain, where we process information by understanding the WHY of the story before our thinking brain kicks in by applying the rational arguments associated with all the facts and figures. Sinek calls it the “golden circle” which depicts three concentric circles starting with WHY in the middle followed by WHAT and then HOW. The WHY is your belief, your cause, your purpose and that is what listeners connect to. As Sinek explains, “People buy WHY you do it, not what you do.”
If you think of my CEO example above, the point of my story is that every one on the sales team can learn to tell a more effective story and more easily connect with buyers. That is my belief that is important to share to connect emotionally with my buyer’s beliefs. With that connection, I can now explain the specifics of what I do and how I do it to make that belief a reality.
Listen to Simon explain the power of the golden circle in this compelling TED talk presentation.
So that’s my story today, What’s yours?
Posted in Content Marketing, Storytelling, Thought Leadership | No Comments »
In my last post, I indicated that the secret to good storytelling lies in making an emotional connection with buyers. But, I am not naive to think that this is an easy thing to do for most of us, regardless of our position in the company. The challenge, as I have learned in life personally and professionally, is that making the connection means earning the other person’s trust. And that my friends means making ourselves vulnerable. And further more we have to take the Nestea plunge first in order to get the other person – our buyer, our boss, our partner, our children – to open up, listen and respond.
Now I know what you are thinking … sounds way too “touchy-feely” to me. And what does what have to do with business, content marketing and telling good stories. Well folks it has everything to do with having another person open up and listen to what we have to say.
The key takeaway for all of us is that we need to have the courage to be vulnerable first to encourage our buyer to be vulnerable too. Mike Bosworth in his new book, “What Great Salespeople Do” ( see my recap post on Mike’s new book), discusses the importance of vulnerability in a story he relates from an early career mentor:
“Bob used to say that there is a ‘veneer of bullshit’ between two strangers, and as we all know, that’s especially true with a seller and buyer. Until you break through that veneer of bullshit, he’d tell me, you have no chance of selling anything.”
To get a better idea of what i am suggesting here, watch this very entertaining and compelling TED-talk story by Dr. Brene Brown.
Posted in B2B Marketing, Content Marketing, Storytelling, Thought Leadership | No Comments »
So let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, I started a BLOG and started writing about my views and experiences as a B2B sales and marketing junkie. After 30+ years in the field, first 20+ working with a number of software companies in every aspect of field operations and then 10+ as a consultant, I felt I had something to say so I did what every warm blooded marketer feels they need to do and started cranking out CONTENT. First a web site, then BLOG posts with a few choice podcasts and webinars. A couple of plum conferences in front of live audiences; interviews for trade pub articles and some articles and white papers of my own. Lots of arguments and opinions supported by facts and stats and use cases.
But what is the end game of all this content creation and publication? Followers? Likes? Retweets? In my case, it’s all about building trust with my audience and to find buyers and influencers who believe what I believe. God knows we have created mountains of content and information to supposedly make it easier for buyers to buy. Buyers should be able to defend their decisions as intelligent and authoritative, but are they?
But Are We Telling Good Stories?
It depends on how you measure and from whose perspective … yours or your buyer? My head, or my “thinking brain” says yes, but my gut, or my “emotional brain” says no. I had been feeling this way for a while, then I read a fascinating new book and attended the author’s workshop last week. It was a “eureka” moment for me.
The author is Mike Bosworth, legendary creator of Solution Selling and Customer-Centric Selling. The book is entitled, “What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story”. Now the importance of storytelling is not new for sellers and marketers. But when we look at how it influences buyer behavior and why it works, we see more clearly that there is a right way and wrong way to tell stories.
What’s the Secret to Good Storytelling?
The secret lies in making an emotional connection with buyers. Why? Because as Bosworth and co-author Ben Zoldan (Customer-Centric Selling) so expertly explain, “breakthroughs in neuroscience have determined that people don’t make decision solely on the basis of logic … in fact, emotions play the dominant role in most decision-making processes.”
I’ve always known this point to be true – it probably has been one of the keys to my success in B2B sales and marketing. However, reading the book and going through the Story Leaders workshop last week provided a field-tested framework for how to construct and deliver stories to build trust and rapport with buyers. I like frameworks. I use them all the time in my practice and have relied on them throughout my career. They feed my (sometimes overly) analytical personality … thirsting for information, facts and figures, logic, process-driven. Very left-brain though … the “thinking” brain.
But frameworks must be based on beliefs and points-of-view that prove out to be true. And ignoring the importance of establishing rapport may help explain why all of the sales enablement training and methodology programs have not raised the performance of those it was targeted to improve – the 80% of the sales force that only delivered 20% of the sales. Bosworth and Zoldan point out that recent research shows that the old 80/20 rule – where 20% of salespeople deliver 80% of the sales – is more like 87-13. The gap has gotten worse between the best and the rest of the pack. Ouch!
Marketers Need to Apply the Story Telling Teachings to Build Trust
I believe that successful content marketing strategies are about quality, not quantity. We need to tell our stories with authenticity and real passion in order to cut through the information overload that buyers are experiencing. Most company stories on web sites lack characters and people to make them real and believable – they don’t draw me in emotionally. What I like about Bosworth and Zoldan’s approach is that they actually teach you how to make your ideas, beliefs and experiences “storiable” using a proven story structure. Their approach shows marketers, as well as salespeople how to develop stories that overcomes buyer skepticism to connect with the emotional brain where trust is formed.
So that’s my story today. What’s yours?
Posted in B2B Marketing, Content Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Thought Leadership, Training Programs | 2 Comments »