In my last blog, I told you a story within a story about Zappos to hopefully connect with you and drive the point home why storytelling, today, is a critical tool enabling sales, marketing and other professionals to cut through the clutter, become more memorable, and ultimately achieve their goals.  In this installment, I wanted to provide you with some insight into when and where to utilize stories.

When should I tell stories?

In reality, there are an almost endless number of places where stories can be employed effectively.  The only rules should be that 1) you take the time to understand your audience and what matters to them,2) focus on a single key message, and 3) know what you want them to remember. 

Here are just a few ways organizations and people are using stories today:

  • The Pitch:  Sales people should strategically deploy stories in their selling to make important points more memorable and hopefully connect with key decision makers.
  • The Show:  Tradeshows and events are really like speed dating.  How do you make yourself memorable when so many people are converging in such a short time span?  The answer is to weave stories into the conversation that people will remember after the show when you try to contact them.
  • The Team:  Building cultures and teams is hard work.  Employees, especially millennials, want to be part of something bigger than simply working for a pay check.  High performing organizations make storytelling an integral tool for helping define and reinforce their company’s reason for being.
  • The Numbers:  A whole lot of data and numbers is, well, just a blur of digits.  As big data and analytics becomes more mainstream, organizations are struggling to figure out ways to communicate the story behind the numbers.  Teaming data analysts with other team members who can craft a story is becoming essential.

Where can I find stories to use in business?

So, by now you are hopefully believing that stories could play a role in your business life.  But where do you begin to identify stories that are both relevant and appropriate?

  • Look Outside:  The world is awash with news, reports, and information that could be the basis of compelling stories.  Identify sources that are credible and allow your audience to easily make the connection between the information you are sharing and the goal of your interaction.  I have found great stories from social posts, blogs, case studies and a multitude of other online resources.
  • Look Inside:  Your organization can be an incredibly rich source of stories.  Begin with your history, your founder’s story, or examples of innovations from your company.  But, don’t stop there.  Customers and employees can provide great prompts for stories that others will immediately understand and remember.  Finally, even in a failure, there can be an excellent story on how your organization recovers and ultimately provides innovative solutions and service.
  • Look at You:  Quite simply, the more personal a story, the higher the impact.  Stories of your business or personal success are easy places to find inspirational anecdotes that others will find both interesting and compelling.  Personal experiences make you real to your audience and likely a person that they find more relatable.  The only word of caution here is to make sure your personal stories are both appropriate and inoffensive.

In my next, and final, installment of this blog series, I will provide some tips on what makes a good story.