I was recently honoured to be a guest speaker for the Valley Womens Network. One of their organizing members had found me on Twitter, then subscribed to my blog and followed my journey.

Joanna contacted me and asked me to speak on one of my much earlier posts on The Art of Storytelling. I was thrilled but at the same time realised that’s a pretty big ask to speak about excellent story telling.

I like telling stories and I think I have many to tell but that doesn’t mean I always tell them well. It’s definitely an art.

Ironically while preparing my speech a friend of mine said they’d recently downloaded a kindle book on the art of storytelling – how ironic.

So there I was reading from the book on his iPhone and taking notes on my iPhone in the back of a car – a story in itself.

Here’s what I learned that you can apply when pitching your business to your customers and clients:

Tell me a story

Methods of influence like persuasion, bribery or charismatic appeals are PUSH strategies.

However story is a PULL strategy – if it’s good enough then people – of their own free will – come to the conclusion they can trust you and the message you bring. Letting people Decide for themselves is one of the great secrets of true influence.

There are 6 types of stories you can tell:

1. Who I am
2. Why I am here
3.The Vision
4. Teaching
5.Values on Action
6. I know what you are thinking

1. Who am I?

Give them a taste of who you are and why they can trust you. We filter every word through a  believability index based on our judgements of a person so Self Disclosure is key.  Theory is if I trust you enough to show me my flaws you can trust me enough to show me yours.

Great leaders use the power of a story of a personal flaw to great effect.

2. Why am I here?

Your reasons for wanting to influence may combine selfish reasons but if you acknowledge them upfront people will be more accepting. People need to know ‘what’s in it for them’ but also ‘what’s in it for you’. Be genuine.

3. Vision Story

If you’ve satisfied 1 & 2 then they’re ready to listen to what you think is in it for them so you need to paint a moving picture of benefits.

Take time to find a story of your vision in a way that connects – a story that they see.
A story that weaves all the pieces together – especially the struggles and frustrations- so that they can make sense of it.

4. Teaching stories

By telling a teaching story it can help us make sense of new skills in meaningful ways. For example telling your new receptionist about how to use the phone system is less useful then telling him about your previous superstar receptionist who did wonders.

By clearly stating that they handled stressful situations effectively, were always polite, knew where the CEO was at all times and how to contact her, then this new receptionist can know what’s expected of them and can say ‘ How would Mrs so and so react now?’

5. Values in motion

The best way to show someone is by example, the second best way is to tell a story with an example.
A new Sales Manager holding their first team meeting  could tell a story about the time they made a major mistake that nearly cost the company dearly. Because they owned up to it straight away they earned the trust of the client who instead doubled their order.

This story clearly shows the integrity of the sales manager and allows their team to know what to expect of them, that they’re human and clearly have learned some valuable lessons along the way. Personal and compelling stories are best.

6. I know what you are thinking stories

When you tell a person a story that makes people wonder if you’re reading their minds they love it. You’re in an all day conference where they’re telling you how you can make triple your money in just three months following their system.

The presenter stands in front of you saying `I know what you’re thinking, how they can guarantee I’ll triple my sales just by using this system’.
If you’ve done your homework on the group and who you need to influence it’s relatively easy to identify their potential objections to your message.

If you name their objections first you’re that much closer to disarming them. You can call them out upfront on why they may want to discredit you and can neutralize concerns without any direct confrontation

In Summary

Storytelling is the most valuable skill you can develop to help you influence others.
It is your birthright to be a good storyteller. In a sense your life is a story and you are already telling that one perfectly.

Clothing truth in story is a powerful way to get people to open the doors of their minds to you and the truth you carry. Remember that Jesus and Mohammed used story to redirect peoples lives and Cavemen used picture stories to elevate their status.

I’d like to credit The Story Factor – inspiration, influence, and persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling by Annette Simmons for giving me this thought provoking material to work with and use in my future stories.

What’s an example of a great story you’ve heard?