You have complete permission to use any or all of the material in the Ideas section, as long has you give credit to Henry DeVries, author of Persuade With a Story!
Increase Sales with “The DeVries Six-Step Heroic Storytelling Formula”
By Henry DeVries
Are you ever frustrated attracting and closing clients?
From my 30 years successful track record in business development for financial and professional services, I have been able to improve sales by as much as 1,000 percent. Yes, a tenfold increase.
In this article I am going to show you how to persuade with a story by mining your stories of how you took clients from mess to success.
If I could give you one piece of advice it is this: your stories matter.
A tough challenge for many in business is convincing enough prospects to hire them. To become more persuasive, it pays to know how humans are hardwired for stories. If you want the prospect to think it over, give them lots of facts and figures. If you want them to decide to hire you, tell them the right story.
Storytelling helps persuade on an emotional level. Maybe that is why so many Fortune 500 companies are hiring storytelling experts to teach their sales and business development professionals to tell relatable stories that will convince prospects.
Now any business leader or sales professional can easily use proven techniques of telling a great story employed by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and Wall Street by employing “The DeVries Six-Step Heroic Storytelling Formula” to gain the chance to make a proposal or close the sale.
These stories must be true case studies, yet told in a certain way. The police TV program “just the facts ma’am” approach does not work. There is a great deal of human psychology that must be put into play. Here is a quick overview of the formula that does work:
One. Start with a main character. Every story starts with the name of a character who wants something. This is your client. Make your main characters likable so the listeners will root for them. To make them likable, describe some of their good qualities or attributes. Generally, three attributes work best: “Marie was smart, tough, and fair” or “Johan was hardworking, caring and passionate.” For privacy reasons you do not need to use their real names (“this is a true story, but the names have been changed to protect confidentiality”).
Two. Have a nemesis character. Stories need conflict to be interesting. What person, institution, or condition stands in the character’s way? The villain in the story might be a challenge in the business environment, such as the recession of 2008 or the Affordable Care Act (the government is always a classic nemesis character).
Three. Bring in a mentor character. Heroes need help on their journey. They need to work with a wise person. This is where you come in. Be the voice of wisdom and experience. The hero does not succeed alone, they succeed because of the help you provided.
Four. Know what story you are telling. Human brains are programmed to relate to one of eight great meta stories. These are: monster, underdog, comedy, tragedy, mystery, quest, rebirth, and escape. If the story is about overcoming a huge problem, that is a monster problem story. If the company was like a David that overcame an industry Goliath, that is an underdog story.
Five. Have the hero succeed. Typically the main character needs to succeed, with one exception: tragedy. The tragic story is told as a cautionary tale. Great for teaching lessons, but not great for attracting clients. Have the hero go from mess to success (it was a struggle, and they couldn’t have done it without you).
Six. Give the listeners the moral of the story. Take a cue from Aesop, the man who gave us fables like The Tortoise and the Hare (the moral: slow and steady wins the race). Don’t count on the listeners to get the message. The storyteller’s final job is to tell them what the story means.
Seven Ways to Put Stories into Action
By Henry DeVries
After you build an inventory of stories that demonstrate how you take clients from mess to success, you are then ready to deploy the stories. In storytelling, context is everything. You should never randomly tell stories, but instead use stories at the right strategic times.
Here are seven perfect opportunities to persuade with a story:
- During an Initial Call to Get a Meeting. Never lead with the story. First have a conversation with the prospect. Ask about their goals, what they are doing right, and what they see as the roadblocks they hope you can help them get past. At this point ask: “May I tell you a true story about how we helped a client get from where you are now to where you want to go?”
- To Close a Client During a Meeting. For many companies, business development is not a one-step close. During an initial get together you gather information and in the subsequent meeting you propose a course of action. This is the time to add a case history story of a client that was in a similar situation.
- On a Website. Get rid of those dry case studies on the website. Instead convert them to the more persuasive story format of the six-step formula.
- In Collateral Material. Don’t just tell when stories will sell. In your brochures and info kits replace drab case histories with persuasive heroic success stories (remember your role is wise mentor).
- During a New Business Presentation. Oftentimes you may be asked to make a presentation to a group. Because humans are hardwired for stories, this is a perfect opportunity to make your pitch memorable.
- During a Speech or Media Interview. Occasionally you might get an invitation to make a speech or give an interview to the media. Illustrate your message with a pithy story.
- To Train Employees on Core Values. Stories can also be the gift to your business that keeps giving. Reinforce core values with employees and new hires through sharing the inventory of stories.
Bottom line: Nothing is as persuasive as storytelling with a purpose. The right stories can work wonders whether you are using them in a one-to-one meeting, in a presentation that is one-to-several, or in a speech or publicity that is one-to-many. Start today to build an inventory of persuasive stories. The message I want to leave you with is this: humans are hardwired for stories.
Mistakes to Avoid When Communicating Change
By Henry DeVries
Gulp. Suppose the time has come to communicate a major change for your organization. Maybe it is a downsizing, a restructuring, or a switch to total quality management. The change is so important the future of the company depends on it.
Employees are mustered to the cafeteria where the CEO makes an impassioned speech worthy of a field marshal. Following the call to arms, the communications campaign launches an offensive on several fronts. All locations are bombarded with videos. Special editions of the employee newsletter sound the battle cry. Platoons of senior executives fan out to deliver the message on a more personalized basis to the troops.
But the war is already lost. Why? Because this approach is wrong, wrong, wrong. Not only will it fall flat, it is positively harmful.
Ask employees what information source they prefer. According to a study by the International Association of Business Communications, 9 out of 10 employees said they want to hear it directly from their supervisor. The mistake that dooms most campaigns seeking to win support for new business goals is the failure to let supervisors explain the change to front-line employees.
To achieve optimal results, campaigns to communicate potentially unpopular changes to employees should be viewed as an applied science. Unfortunately, this does not happen at most large companies. Case studies, surveys and research clearly show that the best practices for a major change are to communicate directly to supervisors and to use face-to-face communication, which includes storytelling.
The rate of major change is accelerating rapidly in business today, and many executives will be called upon to make major change communications decisions as part of a senior executive team. Knowing the four biggest mistakes of change communication will increase their chances of success.
Mistake 1—Many well-meaning CEOs attempt to improve change communications by going the direct route. These CEOs naturally want to talk directly to the front-line employees, usually supported by the advice of senior human resources executives and consultants. Unfortunately, it is a mistake that is wrong for two reasons.
First, it can be viewed as a mere symbolic move, and today’s disillusioned worker has little love for the empty gesture. Second, and more damaging, these campaigns can weaken the relationship between front-line workers and supervisors. Workers want to work for someone who is connected and has a degree of power within the organization. They want to know their supervisor has some pull, and is not viewed as powerless.
Mistake 2—Other well-intentioned senior executives push for equality in the workplace. They believe supervisors should sit shoulder-to-shoulder with front-line employees to hear the big news.
Again, a mistaken strategy because it is evidence of senior management’s failure to recognize the supervisor’s superior status. This reduces the supervisor’s perceived power and weakens his or her effectiveness as a force of change. What many senior executives fail to realize is that the only communications with the power to change behavior is the kind between a supervisor and a direct report.
Mistake 3—Applying the strategy that more must be better, executives in charge of change campaigns use ink by the barrel. They think the solution is more employee reports, posters, news bulletins, video scripts, team briefing outlines, brochures and guidebooks. This too is the wrong approach, because the critical communication is the type that happens face-to-face between a supervisor and front-line employees.
Energy and resources should be directed toward producing supervisor briefing cards which will arm them to answer the key questions that are in the minds of their staff.
Mistake 4—Not giving supervisors a persuasive story to tell can be a tactical error. Storytelling helps persuade on an emotional level. Maybe that is why so many Fortune 500 companies are hiring storytelling experts to teach their executives to tell relatable story. Stories are the building blocks of company culture.
If there is already a true story to tell about how the change will benefit the company, so much the better. If not, at least give supervisors a narrative to tell about how success can be achieved in the future. Every story starts with the name of a character who wants something. Make your main character likable or the victim of undeserved misfortune so the listeners will root for them. To make them likable, describe some of their good qualities or attributes.
Heroes need help on their journey. They need to work with a wise person. This is where your organization comes in. Be the voice of wisdom and experience. The hero does not succeed alone, they succeed because of the help you provided.
Finally, give the listeners the moral of the story. Take a cue from Aesop, the man who gave us fables like The Tortoise and the Hare (the moral: slow and steady wins the race). Don’t count on the listeners to get the message. The storyteller’s final job is to tell them what the story means.
The Bottom Line on Communicating Change
By Henry DeVries
While other forms of communications should not be abolished, the emphasis should be on making supervisors privileged receivers of information. The strategy is to empower the supervisors.
When the future of the firm is on the line, ultimately it’s the CEO’s job to make sure change is communicated the best way possible. After the employees get the skinny from the supervisors, then the CEO can talk to all to reinforce the message.
The wise CEOs will use their supervisors, and properly arm them, to ensure success. Give them the right stories to tell. Remember: humans are hardwired for stories.
Cool Rules for More Compelling Storytelling
By Henry DeVries
The most important element to include in a book or a speech that attracts clients are stories. But not just any type of story.
People who sell need to share stories in which they are not the hero. The client needs to be the hero of the story. There needs to be a villain problem that is holding the client back. Finally, you need to be the wise mentor of the story that helps the client hero overcome the villain problem.
As my buddy Michael Hauge, author of Writing Screenplays that Sell and a screenwriting teacher and consultant to both Hollywood filmmakers like Will Smith and professional speakers, says: “The story must be true, but it does not have to be factual.” In other words, some literary license is allowed to condense the story down to its essence.
There is only one story you get to tell where you are the hero. In my book, Marketing With a Book, I save that tidbit for last.
Why Persuade With a Story
In August of 2008 Scientific American Mind published an article on “The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love a Good Yarn.” Please read the entire article, but here is a summary.
According to Jeremy Hsu in Scientific American Mind, storytelling is a human universal, and common themes appear in tales throughout history and all over the world. The greatest stories—those retold through generations and translated into other languages—do more than simply present a believable picture. These tales captivate their audience, whose emotions can be inextricably tied to those of the story’s characters.
By studying narrative’s power to influence beliefs, researchers are discovering how we analyze information and accept new ideas. A 2007 study by marketing researcher Jennifer Edson Escalas of Vanderbilt University found that a test audience responded more positively to advertisements in narrative form as compared with straightforward ads that encouraged viewers to think about the arguments for a product. Similarly, Melanie Green of the University of North Carolina co-authored a 2006 study that showed that labeling information as “fact” increased critical analysis, whereas labeling information as “fiction” had the opposite effect. Studies such as these suggest people accept ideas more readily when their minds are in story mode as opposed to when they are in an analytical mind-set.
Three Must-Have Characters
By Henry DeVries
This formula is very basic.
Every story needs a hero, a villain, and a mentor. If you are familiar with The Wizard of Oz, this would be Dorothy Gale of Kansas, the Wicked Witch of the West, and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. If the first Star Wars movies are more your cup of tea, then we are talking about Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Jedi Knight Master Yoda.
Your client must be the hero of all your stories (save one). Start your story by introducing us to the hero. Make the hero likable. Make us want to root for the hero.
Next introduce us to the problem. In one of my stories I label a bad economy as “the wolf at the door.” If you can use a person that represents the issue, so much the better.
Finally, you should be the mentor or wise wizard character of the story. With your advice your hero/client overcomes the villain problem. In other words they go from mess to success.
To attract clients, your book and speeches should be peppered with such stories. These stories provide the psychological clues as to why prospects should hire you.
There is only one story you tell, and never at the beginning, where you get to be the hero. This is “Your Story,” which helps prospects understand why they should engage with you. Your story matters.