When we’re providing information in a business environment such as spreadsheets, a series of bullet points in a presentation or a list of facts, the two parts of our brain that are activated are for language processing, but that’s about it.
Alternatively, something fascinating happens when we listen to a story. Not only is language processing activated, but also other parts of our brain become activated as if the same events are occurring in reality.
Because the sales process has become more consultative in nature, storytelling is important to communicate your message. It’s a primary driver around why we at Sales Engine Media use video interviews to capture information from experts as a large part of our content development process with clients.
As a management and business strategist for Narrative IQ, Christopher Kogler teaches leaders how to use personal business stories to influence, engage and inspire others to nurture them through the new sales process.
JASON MYERS: How do you define storytelling? (What’s the point of being a good storyteller?)
CHRIS KOGLER: I use a very direct definition of storytelling and, it relates specifically to business storytelling. Telling a story involves sharing facts that are wrapped in context and delivered with emotion.
Remember, we're talking specifically about business storytelling.
So what are the facts? The facts are the business facts you want to convey.
What is the context? The context is the context of your daily personal experiences.
What about emotion? It's the emotion in your business story that excites and ignites multiple neural pathways in our brain and significantly increases the retention rate of the facts we’re conveying.
"When you tell a story that has facts wrapped in context and delivered with emotion, people remember what you say; people remember compelling stories."
JM: With the roles of salespeople becoming more specialized (with a consultative sale being the most important specialization) how do you see the importance of storytelling as a skill set in that role?
KOGLER: Obviously, the role of salespeople has changed significantly over the last couple of years, not only because they need to be more consultative, but also the nature of B2B products and services that they sell has become increasingly complex.
Because of these changes, I see the role of business storytelling as a critical skill that’s more important than ever before. A salesperson who can tell a compelling business story is going to make me care; she’s going to show me how her product or service helps another human being. A compelling business story is going to be memorable and cut through the cacophony of competing messages that bombard us every day. The net result: your sales team will build trust and belief, and most importantly, increase sales.
JM: What problems do your clients typically have?
KOGLER: As you know, we live in an increasingly disruptive business and economic environment, and the one constant I see repeatedly, regardless of industry or company size, is that they are going through some sort of change.
At times, the change they’re experiencing is positive, for example a recent client of mine wanted to unveil a new vision and a new strategy for the direction of their retail store. I helped them shape that new strategic story and share it internally with their employees as well as externally with their customers and strategic partners.
At other times, the change is more challenging as with a client whose merger and acquisition activities led to a real cultural clash between the two recently merged firms. My task was to help the senior management team explain to all their stakeholders, both internally and externally, why the merger and acquisition made sense and what the new strategic direction was really all about. We used one of our four business story structures – the clarity story – to accomplish this task.
JM: Why is storytelling important in a content marketing context?
KOGLER: The answer is simple. Leaders whose organizations are well-versed in the transformational power and science of business storytelling, win! Steve Jobs’ keynote at his last Worldwide Developer’s Conference keynote in 2011 is an excellent example of business storytelling and a master storyteller at work.
Weaving business storytelling into the fabric of your firm provides a rich and deep source of relevant material that can be directly leveraged into your content marketing program. It helps the prospect to connect the dots in their own mind.
JM: How do you recommend that storytelling be incorporated in a content marketing program?
KOGLER: Numerous ways! Whether it’s online (blog posts, videos, graphics, articles) or offline (print, broadcast, etc.) it’s important to employ storytelling techniques into all of your communications and across all platforms.
Compelling business stories can strengthen your brand, show your stakeholders how your products and services help other people and ultimately help your company prosper by increasing sales.
JM: Is there a comparison that you can draw between being a good storyteller and what we know to be the traditional journalistic approach?
KOGLER: I believe it's important to distinguish between being a good storyteller and being a good journalist. Certainly, they have several important things in common. Both involve sharing something of interest that we didn't know before. Both involve engaging, inspiring and entertaining us. The best storytellers and best journalists touch us emotionally.
But, I think there are some significant differences as well. In the work that I do, I'm not interested in turning the C-Suite or the sales and marketing team into professional journalists. In fact, that notion scares many people. You’ll be happy to know a good storyteller isn't required to become a professional journalist.
My job and my mission is to teach leaders how to use business stories as powerful corporate communications tools. The techniques I teach empower professionals to tell stories that are 30 seconds to two or three minutes long. And, these are the personal business stories and anecdotes that can be leveraged and become a powerful component of your content marketing program.
JM: How do you typically work with clients?
KOGLER: There are a couple of different ways we engage with our clients. The first is through our program called Storytelling For Leaders. This is a six month engagement which kicks off with a full-day workshop and teaches clients four powerful business story structures. We also review the science behind this work.
We then follow up on a monthly basis with our Deliberate Practice Program which reinforces the learning that occurred in the workshop. Learning to use business stories as a communications tool is like exercising a muscle. The more you practice and exercise your storytelling muscle, the stronger your storytelling skills become. That's what our Deliberate Practice Program accomplishes.
The second way I work with my clients is through one-on-one coaching. The CEO may need to explain the company's new strategy to the board. Or, the Director of Online Sales wants to explain her new vision of the online store to senior management. Or perhaps, senior leaders need to explain to the rank-and-file why a merger and acquisition is in the works and the company is pivoting.
Whatever the specific change initiative may be, I’m able to help leaders communicate more effectively by showing them how to use one of our four business story structures as effective communications tools.
The third way I work with clients is through our strategic partnerships. We have several strategic partners in the areas of brand strategy and brand management. We enjoy working with companies whose skill sets complement our brand expression skills. Together, we produce a superior outcome for our clients.
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