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The Power of Stories

The Power of Stories in Selling Yourself!

From Career Tips, 2005 Volume 11, November

At a coffee shop with a book


Why do people buy?


Is it because you've given them the best deal? Is it because you are offering exactly the right product for them? Is it because the hiring manager believes you have the right experience for the job?




Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying those questions don't enter into the equation. What I'm suggesting is that those are secondary questions.


It's a fundamental tenet in marketing that sales are based on EMOTION, and justified by LOGIC. Those questions address logic, the "why this is the best." But they won't get you the sale if you haven't first connected with the prospect at that emotional level.


Think back to the 2005 season's Lamborghini project on The Apprentice. The men's team thought they had it in the bag, because they all loved and understood cars, and had wanted a Lamborghini all their lives. They lost the task because the ad executives saw their campaign as unemotional, addressing only the logic side of the equation, while the women's team won by focusing exclusively on emotions, on the feeling's generated by a Lamborghini.


You might say "That doesn't apply to a job interview! Hiring Managers are seeking the best candidate!" But how do they evaluate who's the best? I want someone who has the right qualifications, but the "best" candidate is going to be the one I WANT to work with - the one with whom I've established some rapport, and will be excited about partnering with to achieve my results.


Stories are a key to making that emotional connection:

  • Instead of making the statement that this is a great product, tell me the story of a client who used it to save their company $100,000.
  • In an interview, don't tell me you are a great product manager, tell me the story of a team you managed that delivered a product 2 months ahead of schedule, gaining your operation an extra $200,000 of revenues in 2005.


A good story helps a prospect visualize what you've done. It shows how you've applied your skills, product or service to achieve critical results. It shows how you've overcome challenges to get there. And it generates excitement about what you, your product or service can accomplish. That's what taps into the emotional level and gets me thinking about what results like that could mean to me and my organization.


So, the next time you are in an interview and the hiring manager asks about your greatest strengths, instead of saying that you are organized, a good manager and great communicator, try telling a story that illustrates those strengths. And the next time you are talking to someone about your services or product, don't list the most important benefits, provide an illustration of how someone else used your services to achieve an important result.


Dear Career Tips: (My Stories Don't Sell)

I know I need to tell stories to illustrate my accomplishments, but they don't seem to grab the listener's attention. What am I doing wrong?
Boring Stories


Dear Boring Stories:

This is a common issue. The key to making a story compelling is to:

  • Keep it short. No more than 1 minute is the guideline I follow.
  • Emphasize the challenges you needed to overcome. Think particularly about why you were given the assignment in the first place, and what made it difficult. What were the implications if you hadn't succeeded in making this happen?
  • Don't get bogged down in all of the technical details of what you did. Hit the high points, perhaps even breaking it down into easy to follow steps for the listener. ("First I interviewed all key players to make sure the issue was fully defined. Next I created a project plan that would achieve the result in the required time frame, and negotiated buy in from all departments on the critical path. Finally, I ...")
  • Focus on results. Make sure to communicate how this accomplishment helped your department, your company, your volunteer organization increase the top line, reduce expenses, make operations more efficient, save resources, ...


Follow these guidelines and you will have stories that get people to sit up and listen!


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