It’s a fact in business, subliminal or not, that we purchase products and services on the strengths of the person who is selling them. If their values and experiences (pain, joy, failures and successes) resonate with ours, we might forego a shiny new feature to buy into the story that they have our best interests at heart (the emotional connection). Already they are sowing the seeds of a lasting friendship! We have a nice warm reassuring feeling. We’re listening!
Later we’ll check their credentials (the logical connection). But already we’re warmed up for the sale. We like the person. Their story is credible. This is how loyal relationships and friendships begin, sales are closed. So what is stopping you from telling your own business story? And when should you settle down to do it?
Here are 5 good reasons why that time is now.
- Scenario 1: When starting out in business tell your story
- So you’ve recently opened for business and are writing a new chapter. “Chapter 1. The world is my oyster. I am having lunch with my dream customer who loves what I do and who I am”. But a few chapters on, someone else is eating your lunch and sharing it with your dream client. Should you go for the jugular, sell more aggressively, risk ruffling client feathers? The answer is no. I once knew an angry plumber who tried to fix my boiler; always 3 hours late, bills higher than expected. He yelled at his assistant, then me, causing several leaks. All I wanted was honesty and hot water! His website copy was slapdash, his collateral out of date and his manner offhand. His business story was therefore all about aggressive, careless customer service. Conversely, I know a brand new web consultancy whose owner is like a big cuddly bear. His genuine interest in working with me shines out of him. Why would I not want to do business with him
- Lesson 1: Personify what your clients highly prize and don’t disappoint. Be true to those values in every aspect of the story about you, all you do and say, whatever the circumstance or channel
- Scenario 2: When your business is growing tell your story
- When your business is changing, charting new territories or getting bigger, write a joined-up story. Two small garages I know do it well and not so well. One displays a sizzling smorgasbord of new services but can’t remember my name. They call me the silver Peugeot 206. They present bills for work I did not agree to. I am not a person. I am just a car! The other, though growing, has a solid business story built on generations of graft, integrity, wisdom; three qualities I most admire in a person. My car’s getting older and I don’t want another big bill. They give me no-nonsense, sound advice. I am one happy customer and I’ve told them so.
- Lesson Number 2: Whilst managing growth, always value the client who helped you start out and pays your bills. Remember their name; mention them in your story (they’ll happily give you a testimonial). Give them credit where it’s due.
- Scenario 3: When your message is dull as ditchwater or complex tell your story
- You love what you do but your clients find it confusing. They just want to know how it helps them do less of what they dislike (e.g. invoices, VAT returns, writing) and more of what they enjoy. As ‘Storymaster’ in a telco, I turned the clunky messages behind a dull, tired product portfolio into an endearing story about passionate employees going the extra mile for clients (the beating heart of the business). Customers loved them, profits soared. They were the stars of my story (I was just the supporting act); they loved me even more.
- Lesson number 3: even the most turgid of messages can be turned into an uber-cool story about life made simpler for grateful clients.
- Scenario 4: When life has become unpredictable tell your story.
- The world suddenly appears hostile and you feel vulnerable (the uncertainty following Brexit comes to mind). Now’s your time to tell a good story about how you are adept at charting a sea change, with tips and tools to help clients do likewise. I know a chiropractor who does just that. She puts her anxious patients’ problems above profit, always finding a way to help, listen to and reassure them.
- Lesson Number 4. On life’s rocky road, a solid story of consistency and empathy wins client hearts over, keeping them true. They know they can rely on you into the future.
- Scenario 5: When business is booming; tell your story
- Are you too busy chasing new business to focus on existing clients’ evolving needs? In business, I’ve seen this happen, an ambitious supplier calling the shots. Another stuck with us, even when our budget ran out; always delightful. Such a different story
- Lesson Number 5. Even at the peak of your success, treasure every single client. Make your story all about them. And they will love you back (for the long term).
So there is every good reason to step aside from selling to telling what you most love about your business, notably your clients. If you personify what they hold dear, make them feel valued and listened to by a trusted friend who makes their lives that bit easier, what’s not to love about you? Tell that story.