Once upon a time, many years ago, there was an impish young fellow with red hair. His real name was Jake, but you’d never have known that from his nickname, which somehow (even his own mom isn’t sure how) became “Two-Ply.” He was a car salesman – used cars, actually. But as you’d expect, they were not “used cars.” Oh no, they were “the world’s finest pre-owned cars.”
Any wonder why his name was Two-Ply? I’m glad you asked. The reason, truth be told? Because, as I write this column, it was the first intriguing nickname that came to me. Which, in all fairness, is first because, to my left, there is a box of tissues with those very words on it.
You see, stories sell. Stories are remembered. You remember facts and concepts via stories much more powerfully and for a longer time than if you had to remember just the dry facts alone.
People buy based on emotions, justified with logic only afterward. First we decide we need a new smartphone or car, and then we justify it based on how much gas we will save, how much more productive we will be and how the implied step-up in automobile will carry over to being seen as more successful at what we do – which can actually influence the probability of us becoming more successful and more profitable in real life.
Stories are a way of freeing your imagination to accept and feel emotions. In the context of a story, I can allow you to feel joy, sadness, frustration, curiosity and so much more, all without having to actually put you in a negative state of mind. Contrast that with if I would stand behind you and yell, “BOO!” – and after you calmed down, tell you, “Well, if you don’t want to be scared like that, you might want to buy a bottle of Super Relaxificity.”
That would not go down with you very well, and it might even create a negative feeling toward that product, making you even more unlikely to try it.
For someone to buy something in this day and age, the hard sell doesn’t work. Nor does scaring the poor fellow.
What does work is to educate the customer, be their friend and a trustworthy source of good information – and letting them decide on their own to buy from you.
And contrary to what many people believe, it works the exact opposite of the expected: The more information you share, the more likely they are to buy from you! One of the ways to use this very powerfully is to tell stories about other clients, with names when you can.
So if you say, “When I created a marketing campaign for a well-respected Wall Street firm,” even when you cannot say the name of the firm, or “We once had a student who went on to win a prestigious scholarship,” you can educate the potential client about what you do and that you have been involved in doing it successfully for others in a way that worked out wonderfully for all concerned.
By providing information, you are giving them knowledge of an example relevant to them, with the credibility of those other clients going along for the drive.
They will remember and project themselves onto the example you provided when they see themselves as similar to the fellow you are describing. You’ve given them insight via their imagination, which triggers emotions and memories that they can then use to decide to come to you for that same reason: the reason the person in the story that was told came to you. And instead of feeling sold to, and their brain shutting down the lines of communication involuntarily, you’ve gone straight through the gatekeeper and into a place in their brain that relives and revisits that story for helpful information – and makes them even more likely to come back to you! When someone writes an article, you assume they have the ability and knowledge to write a second one.
When someone writes a weekly column for years, you assume they have at least an equal number of columns to generate in the future. The same is true with books, or practically any other form of knowledge. So the more information you provide others, the more value the client sees you have for them as they spend time and money purchasing your products and services! Always allow your prospect to be educated on the subject matter at hand. Show them that there is competition and why you are a better choice. (This does not mean you have to be cheaper; it means you need to justify value, the price being irrelevant.) By telling stories, you can couch education in entertainment, which is extremely valuable because it is fun, entertaining and has value that gives it the ability to sit in the brain for a long time to come.
firstname.lastname@example.org Issamar Ginzberg is a business adviser, marketer, professional speaker and rabbi.
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