The art of storytelling can be seen as a foundation for learning and teaching as while the listener is engaged, they are able to imagine new perspectives, inviting transformation, and an empathetic experience. Stories are effective educational tools because listeners become engaged and therefore remember more.
That said, the cynic in me felt that corporate storytelling was a fad until a couple of years ago when I took some time out to research the subject and theories behind it. Since then, we’ve discovered some pretty good examples of how and why great corporate storytelling works and created a process and technique that enables people to do it well. With almost 60 deliveries of our one day Storytelling training session under our belt, across 4 continents to nearly 3,000 people, we’ve learnt a thing or two about what makes telling a great story so important.
Once Upon a Microsoft Partner…
Let’s talk about you. As a Microsoft partner, your organization is in a highly competitive market. Every partner must consistently transform and evolve, and the pressure to stay ahead can be exhausting. You invest both time and money to ensure your organization continues on a trajectory of profitable growth by evolving your products and services to meet customer demand. So how can you ensure your customers understand and remember why you are the right business partner for them?
Whatever your strategy, getting laser-focused on empowering your marketing and sales teams to develop and share your unique story in ways that drive results could seriously accelerate your growth. We believe that nailing your own powerful corporate story, and training everyone in your organisation to use it well, will amplify your brand and extend your reach. Here are 5 steps to telling your own story more effectively.
1. Listen and Repeat
Everyone loves a good story. It’s not uncommon to hear a story that you may even have told yourself. Of course, it’s also common to hear a significantly altered version of your story, one that is exaggerated or revised to fit the needs of the latest teller. After a very short time, a story can see seconds become years, hundreds become millions, and tin become gold. But keep in mind that the whole point of a great story is that for it to be repeated and remembered. That is what you should strive for in creating your own stories.
2. Use Your Imagination
Your stories should allow the individual to be actively engaged. If the storyteller does the job well, the listener can make the story come alive. Imagining the characters, scenes, surroundings, even the tone of voice, physical appearance or emotion of the characters all help the story make an impact by lighting up multiple areas of our brain. The goal is to create lasting personal connections, promote innovative problem solving, and foster a shared understanding regarding future ambitions. The listener can then activate knowledge and imagine new possibilities.
3. Create a Special Bond
Led by expression and imagination, the listener feels uniquely connected to the storyteller and a mutual respect evolves between them. This is a special bond that those not involved will find hard to penetrate. It is this unique connection that makes corporate storytelling such an influential tool in the seduction of your customer or prospect.
Apply this thought process to how you do business. How often have you done business with someone you trust, someone you enjoy spending time with, someone who understands you and it could be said is even quite similar to you? Being a great corporate storyteller is the perfect way to build empathy, entertain, motivate, and create a connection.
4. In Control of Next Steps
Keep in mind what the point of telling the story in the first place should be. Are you doing it to build rapport? To entertain? In business the point of telling a great story is to ensure the listener will think, feel, or do what you want them to. And that they will be happily motivated to do it. Before we invest huge amounts of time creating stories rich with transformational journeys and challenges, ask yourself what outcome you are trying to drive.
5. Defining Your STORY
Most great stories will include a villain, a hero, a plot, a beginning, middle, and end. But is that enough? We’ve come up with a simple process that enables partners to consider the direction of their story before they start getting drawn into the detail of what is in it. That is the STORY process. STORY stands for Sell Them an Outcome so They Remember You.
- It starts with your point. What is it you are trying to ‘SELL’. Each individual story you tell should have a clear point to make.
- Next, who is your audience? The best stories have the audience at the centre. It is all about THEM and what they care about and will relate to.
- Third, what is it you want the audience to think, feel, or do? What is the OUTCOME you are trying to drive?
- Fourth, how can you make it memorable? People need to REMEMBER your story. Making your story memorable will give you that competitive edge.
- And finally, to be authentic the story needs to be delivered well by YOU. Everyone has different skills. Be yourself and focus on yours. The more natural you are, the more genuine you become.
Whether you are telling a STORY within a sales presentation, in a meeting, or to a large-scale audience, keep these things front of mind and consistently challenge yourself on your content and delivery.
Watch the WPC Session to Learn More
At WPC 2016, I gave a short one hour version of our Storytelling content entitled Creating Stories that Bring Home the Bacon which walks through this process in more detail. In it I tell a few of my own stories, share why expression of your unique expertise is so critical to building trust, and give some ideas about how you may want to re-engineer the way you empower your teams to tell your corporate stories to drive the outcomes you are seeking.
You may think that it’s not possible to use interesting stories in business – we can assure you it is, as long as you have a point.
How has your company benefitted from great storytelling? What are your suggestions for others to help craft the kind of storylines that customers remember? Share your thoughts in the comments below.