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The Story Factor by Annette Simmons

the-story-factor-thumbnailHow many times have your children asked you to read them a story at bedtime? Sure, they may be stalling to stay up a little later. But when you’re sitting in a retirement home reviewing your life few things will shine brighter than those story moments with your kids.

Hold on. Don’t stop reading because you think you just stumbled into a Hallmark story. This is about your business. Remember, the best business books aren’t just about business; they give you tools to improve your communication skills and/or increase your powers of influence.

“Stories” have been around since before there was a spoken language. The petroglyphs found on caves even predate verbal communication. (Unless you think grunts are a form of communication!) And the Bible is referred to as “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” And Stories don’t need to be written. For example…

Many of the great names from history such as Lincoln, FDR or Steve Toburen’s favorite, Winston Churchill, all stand out because of their story telling abilities. Not all great storytellers changed the world for the good. Hitler may be the greatest storyteller of all time and his stories caused millions to die.

During the marketing section of Strategies For Success we stress that “the company with the best story wins”. Marketing is simply “the story of you and your company”. People don’t want more information. After all, they are overwhelmed with “stuff.” Why do you think the magazine Real Simple is so popular?

So your clients want to have faith in you, your company, and your story. They want that quality that is in such short supply today – trust. They want to know that you believe AND you care.

Author Annette Simmons in “The Story Factor” relates six types of stories that help to influence others:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Why am I here?
  3. The vision.
  4. Teaching.
  5. Values-in-action.
  6. I know what you are thinking.

Has anyone ever asked you “What’s your story?” What they really mean is Who are you and why are you here?” In the cleaning business your customers will judge you on things they know such as how you answer the phone, how you look, and how your truck looks. (These are all the “stories” Steve teaches in SFS.)

NOTE: Before people ask what’s in it for them they want to know “what’s in it for you”? For example, your story may be that you started your business to have flexible hours so you have time to coach your son’s baseball team.

Your vision is to create customer cheerleaders. These cheerleaders refer their friends and family (and even strangers as they tell their story over the Internet) to you so your business can prosper.

Teaching stories can be examples of how you want your technicians to interact with the customer.

The best way to teach a value is by example and if not by example then by a story. Example: Your story might be that on the first Saturday of each month you clean the altar of a different church free.

Radar O’Reilly in the TV show MASH always knew what Henry was going to say before he said it. Your job is to know your customer so well that your story answers their objections or concerns before they voice them. An example would be that you notice the walls have been recently wallpapered. “Mrs. Jones as part of our standard procedures we will be using corner wall guards to protect the walls. We will be placing furniture pads over the marble entryway and tabs and blocks under all the furniture.” Your story is one of an attention to detail. (Steve calls this “Answering the Unspoken Question with an Unspoken Answer.”)

Seth Godin uses the term “worldview” when he speaks of a persons perceptions or the story that they view the world through. A customer may have been taken advantage of by a previous cleaner. Their story is that cleaners are not to be trusted. Your story can be used to reposition the old story and fit neatly into the old slots of the customer’s memory bank. Their new story is that the old company was bad but your company has proven their trustworthiness.

Ms. Simmons reminds us that people simply are not rational. We make the majority of our decisions on emotions not facts. So simple ideas like having your picture in all of your ads and business cards gives you credibility and develops trust though familiarity. A picture of your family is even better because your story is easily communicated of a small family business and their values.

The psychological goal of influence is to connect your goals to your customers’ self-interest in some manner. Marketers know and understand this. Your story might be: “Choose my carpet cleaning and your home will be clean, healthy, and dry for your family.” Or you could zone in on: “Doesn’t your family deserve the best?”

The type of stories you tell should be ones of hope and not fear. Which preacher will get more people in the pews on Sunday – the one who preaches “Repent or you’re going to Hell” or the one who preaches about “The forgiveness and compassion of Jesus?”  What about you? Do you want to send out a 4-color postcard of an ugly dust mite or would your customer prefer to see a postcard of a mother and baby playing on the carpet in a clean and beautiful home?

In this day and age of ever-increasing technology and the fear that our jobs will be replaced by computers or robots let this thought comfort you. Artificial intelligence will only be possible once a computer can tell and understand stories. It is our humanity and our stories that connect us all!

So… what’s your story???

Bill Yeadon

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