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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

 

Increase Your Ki

What do the following people have in common?
- Martin Luther King
- John F. Kennedy Jr.
- The Best Salesperson in Your Company

Give up? Strong Ki! Ki is personal energy and passion built from your belief in the value of your solution or product, your conviction that your value will improve your prospects’ world, and your commitment to seeing that value realized in results.

Customer Story: How Stella got her Ki Groove Back
Everyone has nicks in their selling blade. If not, you haven’t taken it out of the case. Do you focus on those nicks, or do you just keep on swinging? A client of Corporate Visions, Stella, was discussing her product at a Power Messaging workshop. She kept focusing on all the negatives of her product and her company, all the nicks in their blade. When she was finished complaining we asked, “So, why don’t you leave the company if it’s that bad?” She paused, shifted her stance, and began sharing all the great contributions her product and company were making to the software industry and their clients. By the time she finished, her body was alive with passion and infectious enthusiasm. It became obvious she did believe in her solution and company. We pointed out, “Now you’ve got Ki!”

5 Tips for Increasing Your Ki

  1. Know your Power Positions.* Believe in them. Focus on them. Deliver them with power and passion.
  2. Think of a time your product fulfilled a client need. How did it make you feel? Develop a story around that instance. Deliver it with power and passion.
  3. Why did you join your company? What inspires you to go to work each day? Have a personal connection with your company’s mission or purpose.
  4. Think of a time when your actions made a difference, or when you were successful at a project. How did that make you feel? Capture that feeling of fulfillment and remember that instance at your next sales call.
  5. Do not focus on the competition and how you compare. Focus on your client’s needs and how your solution can relieve their pain.

Ki Building Exercise
List the strengths of your product/service. Now list your competitors’ weakness and vulnerabilities. There is no need to use their weakness for negative selling. The quiet knowledge that the competition isn’t all that its cracked up to be will build your confidence and your ability to defeat them.

Take the Ki Strength Test
Do you focus on the negative and let it ruin your energy?  Or are you genuinely excited about the difference you, your company, and your product is making? Take the following test to discover how strong your Ki is.
True = 2 pts.
False = 1 pt.

  1. I believe in my company and their mission.
  2. I know my prospects problems and goals. I am willing to help them find solutions.
  3. I am passionate about my solution and am excited to share the value it brings people.
  4. My desire to serve is obvious and evident.
  5. I know everything there is to know about my company.
  6. When I feel my solution will not serve the best interests of my prospect, I get out of the deal.
  7. I am creating sustainable relationships based on mutually beneficial business.
  8. I am not afraid to try new strategies that may help bring my value to life.

How did you score?
14-16    Congratulations! Your Ki is strong and you’re ready for anything.
11-13    Looking good but you could use a Ki tune-up.
8-10    Red Alert! Your Ki is so weak you’re barely surviving. You need help fast! Contact Corporate Visions today!

 

*Power Positions are your key value propositions. They are unique to your solution, important to your prospect, and defendable. Corporate Visions can help your company uncover your Power Positions. Contact info@corporatevisions.com for more information.


 

What If You vs. Imagine

Two popular Word Plays many alumni use are the “What if you” question and the “Imagine” statement. These are two very powerful Grabbers that engage your prospect and ask them to place themselves inside the message you are delivering.

“Imagine” is like Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” statement. Essentially, he asks the audience to “Imagine a world where…” He puts an alternate reality into place. Although he uses “I” (violating “you” phrasing), in this context it works well because I, the listener, is invited to join his dream. He is able to transfer ownership to the audience easily because they want to go; they want to live this dream. Your imagination takes you into his dream and you become part of his story (the power of a story). The audience takes a trip without leaving the room.

“What if you” questions are also very powerful, especially when used in sales. “What if you” moves your audience to where you want them to go without them resisting going there in the first place. They can’t control it – they just go. “What if you” is very kinetic. It forces the listener to answer a question. The very act of what if you did x or y forces the listener to imagine the result and to consider the consequences. These consequences are many times what make the listener take action – action towards your solution. There is power in a question. It forces you to prepare an answer, whether you verbalize it or not.

Play with using “What if you” and “Imagine” at your next sales call. Which do you prefer?

By Chuck Laughlin, Co-Founder and CEO and David Lane, Consultant, Corporate Visions Inc.

 

Great Leaders are Salespeople

Every person leading people to decide between one alternative over another is a salesperson. That includes Jesus, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, every president, attorney, motivational speaker, as well as your kindergarten teacher, mother, and father. Anyone intent on influencing your life choices is actually trying to sell you on something.

Great leaders are “salespeople.” They have to be to inspire a following. Imagine a person who stood up and said to a crowd, “Follow me,” and walked off. Who would follow? Not many.

However, if that person gave a rousing speech that rallies the group to take action – people will follow. Leaders influence people to follow them toward a course of action. That is salesmanship.

Many of the great entrepreneurs that have created offerings and changed our lives started out selling door to door or had paper routes, etc. They were mini-entrepreneurs early in life who evolved and honed their power of influence and just kept on going.

Those who choose a sales career develop these skills with a professional focus. They learn the science and art of influence and use it in their profession.

At Corporate Visions, our focus is to ensure you benefit from these incredibly powerful skills with high integrity and honor. Our goal is that you can successfully lead people to make choices that will improve their lives, both personally and professionally. Visit www.corporatevisions.com to discover more.

- Chuck Laughlin
Founder of Corporate Visions Inc.

 

More Than a Message, it’s a Mission

It was a warm spring day in 2000, on lovely Kiawah Island, South Carolina, when I arrived to conduct a sales training class for Augustine Medical, an innovative producer of unique medical solutions. We had four classes going at the same time and I was assigned to the group that sold their Warm-Up© Therapy System. Each group would have their presentations judged on the final day, (by real doctors and nurses) to determine their “field-readiness.” One of their Power Positions was “the healing power of warmth.”

Each presentation was highlighted by remarkable stories of bedridden patients with bedsores that would not heal, until they experienced this “healing power of warmth,” which accelerated the healing process dramatically. People who could not go out in public for years because of these sores were now given a new sense of life. The stories were so powerful, many times the presenter found it difficult to contain their emotions…affecting emotional responses of tears in the nurses, and yes, even the doctors.


It quickly became apparent that the most effective presenters of this product were the eyewitnesses to this “healing power of warmth.” For them, sharing this message transformed into a mission. When a company’s message is fueled by employees’ strong inner belief and commitment, they feel the impact and power they have in changing the people they touch and making a difference. It then becomes their mission while changing their corporate culture.


Martin Luther King, Jr’s message of equal rights through nonviolent demonstration became a mission to millions, inspiring 200,000 people to join his “March on Washington” in 1963. His “I have a dream” message changed the United States racial perception and landscape forever.


Power Positioning work brings together some of the brightest minds in an organization to analyze their target customer and competitive landscape while discussing and debating their place in it. Channeling this creative chaos, and facilitating its innate friction is my most difficult and rewarding task. Invariably the group will hit a “valley of despair” when the overwhelm of this task hits “tilt”. At this point I ask the Founder or President, “Why did you develop this product?”, “Why did you found this company?”,  “How are you trying to change the world?” Their answers are ripe with passion, and inevitably become the rallying point that inspires a critical breakthrough. It’s then their differentiating message becomes a mission. Unique features and functions become secondary to this unique value their product offers a customer. What a powerful moment!


Scott Augustine, the founder of Augustine Medical, is more than an executive that tells a clear, compelling, and unique message. He is an industry leader because he ‘lit the fire’ that transformed his corporate culture with a message that became a mission for everyone that touches their customers. I was not surprised that in August 2002, Inc. Magazine named Augustine Medical one of the most innovative small companies in America. To Augustine Medical, “the healing power of warmth” is more than a message – it is their mission.


- Kevan Kjar
Senior Consultant and Instructor