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Story in Business

A Fairytale Life

“You’re living in a fairytale.” That is probably not true, but you do live inside a story? Your story is the window through which you look at the world. It’s the context that you have created in your mind that defines your existence. It influences the decisions you make and how you make them. Your story has been evolving since birth. It’s formed by your experiences and knowledge as you go through life, and it’s critical to your survival. Let’s say that in your story, you believe the earth is shaped like a table. You likely would not sail your ship far out to sea for fear of falling off the edge. Your story defines how you see yourself fitting into the world around you.

Not only do you have a story, your family also has a story. Communities have a story. Political parties have a story. Countries have a story. Religions have a story. All of the greatest social movements in mankind’s history have been fueled by a story. Martin Luther King: “I have a dream!” John F. Kennedy: “We will put a man on the moon in this decade.” Companies also have a story. A company story tells how and why they were founded and what they do that creates value in the world.

A Broken Story

One of the challenges facing companies today is that they have lost control of their story. It happens with changes in leadership, mergers or acquisitions, or with rapid growth or downsizing. It’s easy to recognize the symptoms, but the cause is not often linked to a broken story. Symptoms of a “story-less” company are:

  • High turnover in your employees
  • Eroding brand loyalty and receding market share
  • Diminishing profitability
  • Poor analyst reviews and stock performance
  • Difficulty with recruiting new talent
  • Poor communication across departments or functional areas

Each of the above challenges are greatly impacted by your story.

Inside Your Story

Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with one of the world’s largest sales organizations, approximately 38,000 sales representatives around the globe. During a sales forum in Boston, where 300 sales reps had gathered, I asked the question, “What’s inside your corporate story?” Their answers were impressive. Comments I heard were, “Our heritage”; “Our mission and vision”; “Our passion and commitment.” One person said, “It’s our soul.” Now, there is a sales professional who understands the power of story.

I liken your company story to your corporate inertia. It’s how you attract top talent and turn them into loyal employees. It’s how you attract venture capital and shareholder investment. It’s also how you attract prospects and turn them into lifelong customers.

Central Character

“Who is the central character of your corporate story?” is the next question I asked my audience. They unanimously answered, “We are.” “Our story talks about us, our company, our solutions, our customers and partners. Our story is all about what we do.” Take a look at your corporate brochure. Go to your website. Read your annual report. Take a look at your product brochures and advertising. Collectively, they tell a story about whom?

“Who should be the central character of your story?” “Our customers!” was their answer. How do you make your prospect the central character of your story? Like a major motion picture, your client’s story has a plot and there are subplots. How do you create your story with your prospect as the main character and you as best supporting actor or actress? Give them the main plot while you take the subplot that enables theirs to become a reality.

Inside Out vs. Outside In

The reason this concept is so important is this: If you are trying to sell a Global Positioning System (GPS) to a sailor who believes the world is flat by telling him “You can sail your ship due west and discover the new world.” How successful will you be? If he buys your solution, he believes you will KILL him! Rather you should ask, “What if you could sail your ship along the coastline with greater efficiency? What if you could avoid many of the risks you face today out on the open ocean? Imagine if you could get to your destination in half the time it’s taking you today?”

By telling your story from an “outside looking in” perspective, you will make it easier for your prospects to choose you. Why, because they will feel safe.

The First Step

Look at your sales messages as a subset of your story. Do a search on all the words “we” or “our” and replace them with “you” or “they.” Then go through and fix all the grammar and sentence structures so that the content makes sense. Here is a before and after example:

Before:

We have been in business for 50-years.
We help our clients maximize their investment by…
Our broad set of solutions makes us the leading provider for this type of service.

After:

Customers come to us because they want the assurance they are working with a vendor who has been solving these challenges for over 50-years.
What’s most important to them is maximizing their investment by…
What if you had the broadest set of solutions from a leading provider, ensuring you receive the highest level of service possible?

Summary

Your corporate story is critical to your growth and long-term success. It is a good bet that it needs rejuvenation. How well is it being told by your field sales organization? Who is your story about? Does it capture your passion and commitment? Is it simple, clear and focused? Does it represent what is unique about you and why your prospects would care about that difference? Does it tell the story of how you are changing the world?

If you would like further insight into the Power of Story, or would like to understand how you can renew your story, please contact us at…

~ Dean Schantz, Corporate Visions’ Consultant

 

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