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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: LMiller  |  May 01, 2007

Show And Sell: Three Stories That Create The Emotional Drive To Buy

Originally published for RainToday.com

There are two things every new prospect wants to know: what can you do for them and can you really do it. While factual information gives clear answers to these questions, stories provide the proof. Not only do examples give context, they give prospects the reassurance that you’ve seen their challenge before and can provide solutions that work. Below are three formulas that can put a favorable spotlight on your expertise and your contribution.

The Eureka Story

Everyone wants to know the background of the principals and on what they base their point of view. This model provides the “inside scoop” about how your company or approach came to be. It’s the business version of “where are you from?” It provides clarity about who you are and how you approach your work. This story can also be used to create credibility for an idea or point of view.

The formula: a successful character stumbles upon a unique discovery while researching/doing some cool thing.

The poster child of these stories is Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist and author of The World is Flat. Every point he makes starts with an explanation of how he figured it out. In his interview with Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show,” Friedman answered Stewart’s question about the idea behind his book with a story about his conversation with a prominent business leader in India.

When asked about his views on the Middle East, he began with conversations he had with many of the moderate glitterati there. By prefacing his remarks with this background information, Friedman showed that he has his “finger on the pulse” of all things global. Not only does this give his ideas credibility, but it also drives his high-end brand.

The underlying message: his “access” to world-wide movers and shakers makes him “different” than all the other pundits out there. Use this formula when you need to prove your prominence without sounding obnoxious. The model also works to highlight research behind your idea.

The key: make sure your point shows a distinction or illuminates what is unseen. This technique will backfire if coupled with any point that’s overstated in the market.

The David And Goliath Story

Everyone likes to root for the underdog. Stories that highlight overcoming a formidable opponent are hopeful and show your mettle in difficult situations. Yet many principals are too generic when it comes to touting their track record.

The story about their contributions focuses on time and not on the struggle. Usually, these stories start with, “for the past 20 years, I’ve been an executive in a wide range of industries…” This formula goes beyond the standard timeline and focuses on the beating of a more powerful enemy. The key message here: we’re battle tested and up for any challenge you can throw at us.

The formula: Scrappy start-up/newcomer faces off with more powerful foes and wins.

The best example in this category is the story about Southwest Airlines. Herb Keller was a hard-scrabble, whiskey-drinking, cigar smoking character whose little airline went up against the big boys. His victory overhauled the industry and paved the way for other low-cost airlines.

The latest installment: the “free love” campaign to overturn the Wright amendment, a law that favored the big airlines by limiting Southwest’s flights in and out of Dallas’ Love Field.

Use this formula when your clients are entrepreneurial or self-made, as they will relate to the “underdog” element of the story. The model also works for any prospect that comes from highly-competitive markets, as they can relate to doing battle with a bigger enemy.

The best place for this story: media interviews, introductions at speaking engagements and the “about us” section on the website.

Against All Odds Story

Remember last year’s Olympics? Every athlete had a story about their background. The most common focus was on the obstacles, what the contender had to overcome to get there.

This formula is the sibling to the above David and Goliath story. It taps into the same theme – triumph over struggle – but the obstacle is different. Instead of an enemy, the challenges are in the environment, outside of anyone’s control.

The message: because of my background, I have a different perspective than my peers and competitors.

The formula: a fish-out-of-water character overcomes bad situations/discrimination to do great things on his or her own terms.

A great example is Richard Branson’s story. Founder of the Virgin empire, he overcame dyslexia and other learning obstacles that had him labeled as a failure. His struggle shows Branson’s no-holds barred approach and his focus on creating extraordinary customer experiences.

Oprah used the same theme when her show launched. Her traumatic story serves as a springboard to the warm “girl-next-door” approach, an alternative that competed with (and won out over) Phil Donahue’s hard-hitting persona.

Use this formula if you want to position yourself as a maverick. This story also works if your approach is against conventional wisdom or counter-intuitive. This story will give the context needed for buy-in on controversial views.

The drawback: this story gets you in the door and that’s it. Telling this story for too long will backfire and position you as profiting from your tragedy. Best bet is to use this story as an initial introduction and use stories about your track record to move forward.

Conclusion

Stories do more than give context. They create the “hey, he/she is just like me” experience, which creates chemistry and connection. Those experiences create an emotional case for working with you. At that point, your facts simply justify a decision already made.

Filed Under: Sales


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.