The day of corporate retreats to craft mission statements is quickly going the way of the typewriter and carbon paper. We all feel like we should have a mission statement, but once it’s posted on a website or carefully framed in a brochure printed in the perfect font, it’s quickly forgotten about and rarely referenced. The truth is mission statements do not speak to us. We don’t repeat mission statements, and they are occasionally, though rarely part of our daily business, and almost never integrated into the sales process. What we remember and share are stories.
Mission statements are just that, they are statements, which is why they frequently fail to move beyond a brochure or website. Stories are different. They have a life that transcends marketing collateral. Narrative has been around much longer than mission statements. We use narrative to transfer knowledge, share our history, instill morality, and inspire future generations. The narrative thread connects us to one another. Stories are how we communicate and convey meaning. We generally don’t repeat a collection of statements.
In Tell Me a Story, Schank concludes, “human memory is story-based.” Clients and prospects remember and share your story. Think about it – when was the last time anyone repeated your mission statement? Clients make buying decisions on their response to your narrative and how well they trust the person delivering the story. In fact, trust is rarely built outside of narrative. How do we quickly build trust with someone with whom we have no history? We share our stories. Stories convey something deeper than fact. They convey truth. Our experience is in essence our stories.
Even the features and benefits of your product are dwarfed by the memory of the story you tell that relates your success. We use past narratives to predict future outcomes. We retain and carry our experience in a narrative form.
Technology has greatly increased our demand for narrative. Companies and brands are built on stories. High impact stories are more critical than ever in an age when we acquire our information from YouTube, which now ranks as second in the world for search engines. This only further illustrates the market’s insatiable appetite for humanity in an age of mind- boggling technology.
A mission statement will not motivate a sales team or inspire a prospect to buy from you. Stories will. Stories mobilize people to action. Pay attention to the news. It’s story that compel outrage, compassion, fear, and outpouring of love. Whether it’s personal, political, or corporate narrative we rally around a story; we don’t rally around a law or product.
The ability to craft an authentic, meaningful narrative is what defines you. Your value proposition should be expressed through story and how you present solutions should be delivered through a relevant narrative. High quality testimonials are just good stories.
If you understand that selling is really about presenting solutions – you are on the right track, but selling the solution alone is no better than simply selling the service. Selling well is about conveying and applying the appropriate narrative. Even at the highest level of business we are applying fact patterns based on previous narratives. So if you are wondering why your focus on selling solution is falling short – you might want to look at your story.
I learned a long time ago that telling people that I started my company with $5 a MacBook was more compelling than recounting a list of accomplishments and facts. No one will remember where I went to school or how much revenue I’ve generated, they remember that I started my company with more courage than money. That says everything to them.
Have you ever been to an event where someone read a bio introducing someone that sounded suspiciously like a cross between an obituary and an online dating profile? After the third extraordinary accomplishment we rarely stay engaged. People try to create a personal touch by mentioning that they have four beautiful daughters and love golf, but this doesn’t say anything to us about who this person is or why we might care. It’s their story that makes us sit up in our seats and lean into them.
Knowing that someone began their company with $45K of debt living in a studio apartment and eating Cheerios for six months straight makes us want to listen. Narrative has a form. We respond to the journey and the rise from struggle. Our credibility is purchased with good story telling. So what’s your story?