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Telling Stories in Business to Persuade + Sell


If you were to hear the word “story” or even “storytelling”..what comes to mind? School? People around a campfire? Bedtime stories? 

Most of us were introduced to stories at a very young age. As a result, we believe that stories are for kids. They certainly don’t warrant a place in today’s fast-paced business world. However, there are several reasons (scientifically proven)why you need to be including stories into your daily business communication exchanges.

Let’s focus on arguably the most important; persuasion and selling.

Persuasion theory suggests that we need credibility (ethos) and logic/data (logos) to persuade.

There is one other element needed to move people into action. That is pathos. Pathos is about connecting with the emotional side of your audience. One of the best ways to do this is by telling stories. Stories attack the heart and emotions. For those of you in sales, you will know that people are persuaded by their heart and not their heads.

Cognitive research supports this too. Facts, figures excite a total of 2 parts of the brain; Broca’s + Wernicke’s areas. Stories, however, excite the brain in a big way. They have been proven to light up 7 parts. Sensory, motor + frontal cortex parts of the brain all excited. Dopamine is also released etc

To use an analogy it is a little bit like driving on a motorway. If you try to persuade using facts, figures and data only you are in first or second gear. Use stories and you quickly move up the gears into 4th or 5th.

Not convinced?! Let’s use a story. This is a real China business example.

Background: Sales manager (Jane) wants to get supermarket distributors to help sell more of her company product (glass containers).

Initially, Jane used PPT slides with product specifications including container sizes and colors in regular supermarket distributor meetings. The problem was that this wasn’t getting her the results she wanted. Remember trying to sell with data and logic alone rarely works.

Then a story was added. This was the story Jane told her distributors to tell potential buyers:

I want you to imagine that you now at home working in the kitchen preparing a lovely family meal.  As you begin to cut up some vegetables…. smash ….you hear the loud sound of glass breaking behind you..

You immediately feel your heart beat faster as you turn around to see where your child is…..

Every year 67,000 children experience serious accidents in the kitchen.

BUT with our new product line of glass bowls and containers thankfully this will never happen. The extra think extra tough shatterproof glass ensures that from dropping distances of 2 meters your glass containers will not break.

The distributor then needs to drop the glass container in front of buyers to demonstrate… 

The addition of this story (together with one fact) was a huge hit. Sales increased dramatically.

In summary, using facts and figures alone is like driving a car on a motorway in 1 or 2nd gear. Add stories and you immediately put your car into fourth or fifth gear.