The Art of StorySelling (Part One)

Does the name Dick Fosbury sound familiar?

If you are a sports fan, a tad bit older and follow the Olympics, his name will be instantly recognizable. If not, here’s the background: Prior to Mr. Fosbury, most elite high-jumpers used the Straddle technique, Western Roll, Eastern cut-off or even Scissors-Jump to clear the bar. Everyone did the high jump the same way; they ran to the bar and rolled over the bar, face forward. Not Dick. He ran full steam ahead, contorted his body, turned and jumped backward at the bar just prior to take off, arching his back and lifting his legs over him. Everyone laughed. Until he broke all the records. He won the gold medal in the 1968 Summer Olympics using his technique.

Everyone was doing the high jump the perceived correct way; but Dick Fosbury and his “Fosbury Flop” showed everyone the right way to do it. The moral: the popular way is not necessarily the correct way. Every high-jumper today uses the “Fosbury Flop.”

This is the first of a three (3) part series on StorySelling: What, Why and How to do it correctly. When used properly, it’s an effective sales closing technique that will aid in soft selling your prospects. This first article will deal with WHAT StorySelling is and what makes it different from regular StoryTelling.It’s the same with StoryTelling. Lots of folks do it, but they could be doing it better by changing to StorySelling. This applies both to firms that use it and to any full service marketing agency that is hired to implement it on behalf of their clients.

“StorySelling,” as I call it, is the art of telling an emotional and compelling story, regardless of medium, to effectively convey a call to action that sells a product or service, or gains a donation from the recipient.

A good story is something the recipient can read easily, relates with and which effectively touches that something inside of them but does not often urge them to take action. The key to your success is to go beyond the story and to think about your call to action, from the prospective audience(s) vantage point. It’s really more about gentle persuasion than overt selling when done correctly. That makes StoryTelling, StorySelling.

Here are some great StoryTellers:

* Music: Gordon Lightfoot, Harry Chapin, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan

* Books: John Grisham, Shel Silverstein, James Patterson, Steven King

* Movies: James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, Oliver Stone

* Plays: Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Neil Simon

All great indeed but not StorySellers, any of them. If you look at Anthony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, most seasoned politicians and legendary pitchmen, you’ll discover it.

It’s what made Billy Mays rich and Oxy Clean famous.

StorySelling is similar to full circle branding in that the story ends with a meaningful conclusion; in the case of measurable marketing a call to action to purchase or give. When done correctly both the advertiser and the responder win because ultimately they feel good, oftentimes excited about the action they just took. When done well, they go on to tell friends and they do the additional StorySelling for you.

Remember: People hate to be sold, but those same people love to buy, give or lend a hand. Great StorySelling then gives reasons for the recipient to take action. It incorporates purchasing options. In order to get to the call to action, it’s best to explain how the product or donation will help them or those who receive it. You need to lead with emotion and justify with logic. It’s the logic that takes the emotional StoryTelling to the next level of StorySelling.

Simply spend some time analyzing great infomercials and you’ll see what great StorySelling is about. Or, read ads from Oreck, Harry & David or Bose. They understand StorySelling. And, they are very successful.

By way of example, an agency I know works with an important non-profit agency in southeastern Wisconsin that provides multiple social services to a wide variety of people. When we first became partners in direct mail campaigns with them, they were spending $25,000 per year on direct mail, and receiving about the same amount in return. Not-with-standing the potential lifetime value of the donors who made the gifts, this is still not the kind of return a non-profit executive wants to see.

They have done work with them for eight years now, and each of the direct mail pieces they have done for them has focused on an emotional, factual story of one element of their program. Of course, they have done considerable work in finding the right lists to target and have done extensive testing.

In those eight years, they have increased their annual direct mail expenditure to about $185,000 … with an annual return of more than $1 million! Now that’s a return a non-profit exec can get behind! That’s the power of StorySelling.

In the next article we’ll cover the reason WHY you need to be StorySelling today, right now.