StorySelling within organizations

A lot of effort, time and money is spent on marketing, sales, advertising and branding.
Experts are busy doing the job of ‘selling’.
To move the ‘outside world’.

storytelling

But within organizations
It’s a different story.
Literally.

It seems like we don’t know how to tell and sell the story.
And how to move others.

As Daniel Pink says: Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.
So, how do you tell/sell your story?

The system

We know the importance of ‘selling’. A lot of effort, time and money is spent on marketing, sales, advertising and branding. To move the ‘outside world’. But within organizations, there is still a lot of communication going on that is far removed from what appeals to people. Boring language, death by powerpoint, incomprehensible stories. Name it.

Why should you care? Great ideas that are going down the drain, solutions that never will be executed, a hard road trying to change mindsets of people, trying to convince them of value, usefulness or necessity. It all gets stuck somewhere, because we are not able to move people.

As Daniel Pink says: “Whether we’re employees pitching colleagues on a new idea, entrepreneurs enticing funders to invest, or parents and teachers cajoling children to study, we spend our days trying to move others. Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.”

So, if we spend our days trying to move others, how could do you do it?
How do you get other people to love your idea, service or product?

Tips & Tricks

Note. Of course, there are many other things of great influence to move people than just a story. We call it the fundamentals; almost all of our blogs are about those important fundamentals. In this blog, we’ll not go there. We’ve just wrote down some tips & tricks on how to create support, move and convince people. 

No rocket science this time.
Just some things we think might help you.

How you tell your story; communicating the essence and value in a way, so that it is understood, inspires to action and create enthusiasm, connection and support.

Bar language

In business we often use abstract terms and jargon. When you take a close look and listen carefully: we talk like idiots (here’s one of our blogs about this subject: Lost in language). This isn’t working; it makes it harder to get heard, harder to be understood and definitely harder to be appealing.

The objective is to communicate so that your audience can quickly and clearly understand your message. That means: using clear language. Plain language. We call it ‘bar language‘. It’s easy: don’t use words that you are not using at home or in a bar. Tell the story like you’re talking to your 75 year old aunt. (Try it and you will find out how you are soaked in abstract, conceptual terms and jargon.) Like Albert Einstein said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” That also means: keep it simple and short; present a broad picture – without going into too much detail.

Know your audience

This probably sounds like an open door: what is your target audience? Everybody knows this is one of the keys. What we mean by this, is to really take their perceptions and values into account. Every audience need a specific story, that is developed in line with their experiences. In organizations, often the same story that is developed for management is used for employees. This will never work. You need an inspiring story, designed from empathy, that matches your audience.  To make this happen, you have to really know your audience. Step into their shoes(There is little bit more about this in one of our previous blogs “Fall in love“.)  

Choice of words

Besides using the ‘bar language’ to be understood, words can have a huge impact whether something is perceived as attractive, or not. Abstract terms, empty messages, woolly language are meaningless. It does not make anyone tick. And in the worst case, you suck all the energy out of people. Emplyees are not affected by words like strategy, policy and implementation. Everyday life is about frustration, gossip, stories, sex, confusion, joy and despair. We search for sensemaking and meaning. We don’t want empty messages. We want sincere, honest, personal human stories. So, choice of words: important. Using the vocabulary of your audience. Use words that matches their worlds and values. Using words that wow your audience. Do you want to be attractive or not? Make meaning. Choose your words.

To make this happen, you have to know your audience (as mentioned before). You have to know what they like and dislike; their gains and pains. For example, if your audience is focused on certainty and reliability, words as evidence, security and best practices will match their values. Words like new, breakthrough and ‘awesome!’ are associated with risk, uncertainty and guesswork. They do not like that. On the other hand; for ‘speculators’ and ‘early adopters’ these are attractive words. Be aware.

BTW. Uncertainty about the future often leads to a natural aversion to new ideas. New stuff feels like disruption, risk, stress and hassle. In organizations, we prefer to continue what we do, until we are really forced to change. Creating a movement and change can therefore be hard. Besides helping people to see the importance of your idea/solution, there are more ways to help them. For example, by making it small: by using ‘small’ words (let’s try it for a while, momentarily, tiny change, small comments, etc.). Or by showing that the unknown doesn’t have to be frightening, but can be painless, easy and beautiful. Emphasizing that the new does not have to have a negative affect to the old.

The power of storytelling

Storytelling in organizations still is undervalued and underutilized, while storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to activate our brains. The use of storytelling is extremely powerful. In many ways. Read our blog on The power of business storytelling.

Forms and vehicles

Often, traditional forms (text documents and power-points) are used to tell and sell stories within organizations (take a look a the world’s worst powerpoint slide ;-) The way you tell your story, depends on the purpose. An A4 paper is excellent for a quick update. A long spelled report is a good form for for subsequent accountability. But those forms don’t drive people. Text is often logical, sequential, analytical, and does not invite interpretation and imagination. Thereby, people are flooded with information everyday. They don’t want to read long documents or emails (riddled with abstract terms and jargon).

So, use appropriate, on-traditional ways/forms to communicate. Forms that people will get really excited about. Innumerable ways are imaginable; there are countless ways to shape it and to tell the story. Think of visuals (see our blog The Power of visualization); go beyond the written, add pictures to your story, make a short video, use drawings, cartoons, mapping, voices of personas. Use anecdotes, quotes, metaphors and statements. And the best tip ever: show itMake it tangible and show it. Think creatively and keep it simple. Here’s some inspiration on venues and vehicles.

Owh, and if you still want to use PowerPoint, watch this short (and very funny) video first: How NOT to do PowerPoint by Don McMillan.

Start with why

Most people try to persuade by communicating from the ‘what’. Simon Sinek speaks in his TED Talk How great leaders inspire action about his simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership: The Golden Circle. Here, it’s all starting with the question “Why?” When we communicate from the why, we talk directly to where behavior occurs. As he says: “People do not buy what you do, but why you do it”.

There are many organizations that do this successfully. Apple is perhaps the best known example. Apple’s success is mainly due to the way they tell the story. As Steve Jobs said: “Sell those dreams and not the products. People only care about their dreams, hopes and ambitions and do not actually care about your company, products or brand “. You do not just buy an Apple tool, you buy a sense, a feeling, a meaning. It is about creating value by meaning, identity or experience. A company like Disney does not sell products, they sell magic and fantasy. And Starbucks and The Coffee Company don’t sell coffee, they deliver an experience, a daily ritual, a personal expression. And Harley Davidson “sells the ability for a 43-year old accountant to dress in all black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him”.

It is about the emotional connection with the audience. This means that the story starts with the why (motivation), in combination with the how (the specific actions, in active terms) and what (the why in a tangible way). Touching people directly in their world. People need to feel it themselves. Bring in emotions. Use concrete quotes or statements. As Mark Twain said: “Do not say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream”.

BTW. Now Simon takes the next step. After why comes : trust. When we surround ourselves with people who believe what we believe, trust emerges. Watch this great TEDx Talk about trust and why. And if you are interested; we’re partnering with Sinek and made a beautiful mixture of Plan B and Sinek’s Why Discovery

Make it, and them, look good

Aesthetics are important. Make it look good. As Tim Brown says: “Great design satisfies both our needs and our desires (…) That products appeal to us emotionally and functionally. In other words, they do the job and we love them”. Besides, to inspire enthusiasm, make them look good. Vanity and motivation are strongly interconnected. Respond to the ambition and drive of your audience.

Owh, and always add a call for action. Speak directly to your audience and ask for what you want. Always. And, as David Ogilvy says: “If you want action, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.”

Guru stuff

There’s a lot to say about gurus and experts and hypes and models. We won’t (in this blog;-). For now, we just want to say: learn from them. That’s all. For example:  the Expectancy Theory of Motivation of Vroom (1964). This theory assumes that people move through avoiding/minimizing pain or maximizing pleasure. You can use this by delivering great values (maximizing pleasure) and make them aware that you know how they feel and the problems they experience (minimize pain).

Or Cialdini’s theory of influence: based on the principles of reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity. Or the ‘SUCCES’ characteristics of Chip and Dan Heath that can help make an idea “sticky”.

Sooo…

Let’s face it: we’re all in sales now.
Like it or not.

We hope these tips & tricks will help you to create support, move and convince people.

Because, wouldn’t it be great if we we able to use the same skills of storyselling within organizations as we apply in ‘the outside’ world?

Want to know more?
We’ve made a Flipboard Magazine for you. All about storySelling: getting other people to love your idea, service or product. Move others.

Enjoy!

View my Flipboard Magazine.

Image credits: source unknown. If you know who made it, let us know! Credits are important.

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