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How to market with stories (or why one size fits none)

“I’m going to stop you right there,” I said, cutting the woman off midway through her presentation. “I don’t understand what you’re talking about. What do you actually want me to do?”

I’m a polite guy and I didn’t want to be rude, but… I couldn’t carry on listening.

What’s it about?

I’d agreed to help my contact find prospects for her IT company. But, ten minutes into our meeting, I still wasn’t sure what she wanted.

When she said “I can send you a contract…” I just had to stop her.

What did she actually want me to do?

“Will you recommend our IT services to your clients in return for a commission?”

No. An immediate no.

I give my clients advice on communication and storytelling. What do I know about their IT needs?  

If she’d addressed this “What’s it About?” question before the meeting, I could have saved us both time. 

Emotional Dashboard

On the surface, this is a simple business proposal. One side offers a commercial arrangement, the other side says no. But my emotional reaction was like a flashing hazard light on a car dashboard.

This proposal was utterly wrong for me. 

I’m not an IT expert. This proposal would damage my credibility: I’d be giving worthless advice in return for cash.

I was being sold a one-size-fits-all story. This was a monologue, not a meeting. I counted for nothing. And that’s what annoyed me. It turns out one size fits none.

Selling is Telling

Here are two stories that would fit in this situation: 

  • Expert stories: “I’m putting my reputation on the line. I promise you these guys are good.” (see Trust Me, I’m an Expert)
  • Real Customer stories: “These guys solved our problem, they can help you too.” (see Simple Sales Stories)

The right kind of story can build your market because they build trust. 

But that story has to fit. It has to be right for the storyteller and the customer. 

One size will never fit all.

Storyteller Tactics used to write this post:

Five T’s – I started in the moment of tension.

Emotional Dashboard – I focused on negative emotions.

Audience Profile – it’s all about choosing the right story for the right person. 

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