Recently, I was delivering a seminar at a commercial real estate entity’s executive leadership conference on story telling.  As one of my examples of great story telling, I showed a video of Zappos’ compelling CEO and Founder, Tony Hsieh.  He told a gripping story about outstanding customer service involving a woman calling Zappos for a refund when she ordered a pair of slippers for her husband.  By the time the shoes arrived, he had died in a fatal car crash.  Not only did Zappos issue a refund, but the customer service rep took it upon herself to order flowers be sent to the woman.  The grieving widow was so moved, she mentioned this at the funeral to all of the attendees.  Tony explained that on a per transaction basis, Zappos lost money.  But, not only was the woman now a lifelong customer, everyone that she came in touch with, including the mourners at the funeral, are likely to be loyal future customers.
Now, this is a great example of a company using storytelling to reinforce its culture…a key and valuable role for storytelling in an organization.  But, what happened next in my seminar truly amazed me.  I looked over at one of the attendees, Lauren, who had tears streaming down her face.  I said “Lauren, what happened…I know that the story Tony tells is moving, but I hadn’t expected it to cause you to cry.”  She responded that when her now deceased father was in the hospital, she had ordered several pairs of slippers for him from Zappos.  He passed away before he could wear them.  She too called Zappos asking for a refund, which she received.  But, it was the beautiful flowers that Zappos sent to her that has made her a loyal customer.  My story reminded her of her father and how much she LOVES Zappos.  WOW!
So, let’s get this straight…a story about storytelling in a blog about storytelling, told at a seminar on storytelling where a video about storytelling caused an attendee to cry.  Why?  Well, the simple answer is that we are all pre-wired to listen to, connect with, and remember stories.  And, quite simply…I wanted you to pay attention.
Brain scans show that when we hear stories two hormones are released:  Cortisol which causes people to focus and pay attention and Oxytocin which promotes connection and caring causing people to feel empathy.   These two emotions of focus and caring are the whole point of utilizing stories in today’s world of information overload.  Whether you are in sales, marketing, or other functions, you are looking for ways to cut through the clutter and connect with your target audience.  Storytelling is your secret weapon.
In the end, we are social creatures, and we like to hear stories.  As well, stories make us more credible and relatable when we are speaking to a folks who don’t know us.  The good news is when someone hears a story to which they can relate, you can physically see their defenses dropping.  This change then allows us to connect and engage in real conversations, resulting in less selling and more dialoguing.  Ultimately, this is all we can ask for when we are trying to influence people.  In my next blog, I will provide some advice on when and where to tell stories.

Recently, I was delivering a seminar at a commercial real estate entity’s executive leadership conference on story telling.  As one of my examples of great story telling, I showed a video of Zappos’ compelling CEO and Founder, Tony Hsieh.  He told a gripping story about outstanding customer service involving a woman calling Zappos for a refund when she ordered a pair of slippers for her husband.  By the time the shoes arrived, he had died in a fatal car crash.  Not only did Zappos issue a refund, but the customer service rep took it upon herself to order flowers be sent to the woman.  The grieving widow was so moved, she mentioned this at the funeral to all of the attendees.  Tony explained that on a per transaction basis, Zappos lost money.  But, not only was the woman now a lifelong customer, everyone that she came in touch with, including the mourners at the funeral, are likely to be loyal future customers.

Now, this is a great example of a company using storytelling to reinforce its culture…a key and valuable role for storytelling in an organization.  But, what happened next in my seminar truly amazed me.  I looked over at one of the attendees, Lauren, who had tears streaming down her face.  I said “Lauren, what happened…I know that the story Tony tells is moving, but I hadn’t expected it to cause you to cry.”  She responded that when her now deceased father was in the hospital, she had ordered several pairs of slippers for him from Zappos.  He passed away before he could wear them.  She too called Zappos asking for a refund, which she received.  But, it was the beautiful flowers that Zappos sent to her that has made her a loyal customer.  My story reminded her of her father and how much she LOVES Zappos.  WOW!

So, let’s get this straight…a story about storytelling in a blog about storytelling, told at a seminar on storytelling where a video about storytelling caused an attendee to cry.  Why?  Well, the simple answer is that we are all pre-wired to listen to, connect with, and remember stories.  And, quite simply…I wanted you to pay attention.  

Brain scans show that when we hear stories two hormones are released:  Cortisol which causes people to focus and pay attention and Oxytocin which promotes connection and caring causing people to feel empathy.   These two emotions of focus and caring are the whole point of utilizing stories in today’s world of information overload.  Whether you are in sales, marketing, or other functions, you are looking for ways to cut through the clutter and connect with your target audience.  Storytelling is your secret weapon.

In the end, we are social creatures, and we like to hear stories.  As well, stories make us more credible and relatable when we are speaking to folks who don’t know us.  The good news is when someone hears a story to which they can relate, we can physically see their defenses dropping.  This change then allows us to connect and engage in real conversations, resulting in less selling and more dialoguing.  Ultimately, this is all we can ask for when we are trying to influence people.  In my next blog, I will provide some advice on when and where to tell stories.