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Storytelling and analogies are so helpful as communication tools. But why exactly?

The human brain seems to be pre-wired for story. We’re not rational creatures capable of emotion: it’s the opposite. We make subconscious, emotional decisions, then we rationalize them nanoseconds later. Therefore, if you want to tap into the mind of a decision-maker, you need to influence people emotionally.

That’s where stories come in. In this episode Paul Smith, author of Sell With a Story and Managing Partner at Story Makers, LLC, talks about why stories are so much more effective than sales pitches.

There’s a lot more to this wide ranging interview. Episode highlight include:

Paul’s journey to becoming a solopreneur delivering leadership training through storytelling

I was literally 20 years into a job [at P&G] when I wrote my first book Lead with a Story, really just nights and weekends as a side hobby. I was hoping that it would lead to a career in writing and speaking but I had no idea if it would work and I I wasn’t brave enough to just quit my job in my mid-forties and go try it. So I wrote it and waited for it to come out and see how well it did. And quite frankly I got kind of lucky. I think it’s in it’s eighth printing now, and it’s in seven or eight languages around the world. And I ended up getting phone calls from all over to come teach executives the art and the science of leadership through storytelling. And that led to an entirely new career.

What marketers can learn from how the brain really makes decisions

It turns out that in order to make decisions human beings make subconscious, emotional and often irrational decisions in one place in their brain and then they rationalize that a few nanoseconds later in some other place in their brain. So we come away from it thinking that we’ve made this rational decision. But the truth is we made this unconscious emotional decision. And so if you want to tap into that, if you want to be able to influence what people think and feel and do – in other words leadership or marketing or sales – it turns out you need to influence them emotionally. Facts and logic and data just are not very good at that. But stories are fabulous at it

The 8 questions every story needs to answer for its audience

If you don’t have the structure of a story a lot of things fall apart pretty quickly. What’s the analogy? You can’t put lipstick on a pig. All the emotion and surprise and fancy use of dialogue cannot save a bad story from an awful structure.

Advice on incorporating storytelling into your sales calls

Instead of 30 minutes of hard core hair-raising vomit-inducing sales pitch, try 24 minutes of sales pitch and 6 minutes of storytelling.  That could be three 2-minute stories – one at the beginning of the meeting,  one somewhere in the middle, and one somewhere near the end that illustrates the points you’re trying to make in a much more visceral emotional compelling fashion than you can do with 30 minutes of nonstop logic and facts and data and arguments.

Why your product should not be at the heart of your stories

If you’re focusing on the human beings that use that product or that service you’re more likely to come upon some great stories because the main character of your stories need to be other human beings. People are interested in stories about things that happen to other human beings. People are not as interested in stories about products or stories about an entire company just because that’s so impersonal.

Paul references some great storytelling examples in the interview. Don’t miss the Guinness beer commercial he referenced, and the portfolio of Chris Gug (“Dude, what’s with the pig in the ocean?”)

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