“Tell Me a Story…”

Note: This article originally appeared on Market Leadership Journal on February 11, 2014.

A while back I spoke to a group of individuals seeking their next job about a strategy known as “The Wedge,” which I have shared a bit about on Market Leadership Journal, the Content Marketing Institute blog and elsewhere. It’s a targeted, value-based approach (ideal for both B2B sales professionals as well as job seekers) to getting your foot in the door at a business where you otherwise do not have a connection. Among the most crucial steps in this approach is developing your value proposition: What positive, measurable result can you create for someone else?

This question presents a challenge for many people. Such was the case for Chad, who approached me after my talk. He had a diverse background, largely in information technology. “I’ve been instrumental in deploying updated systems for one employer; at another I developed new protocols for support teams…”

As he recited his background interwoven with jargon that might as well have been ancient Greek, part of me wanted to just hold up my hand and say, “Dude, you’re losin’ me.”

Mind you, this impulse (which I withheld), was not out of indifference. Rather, it was in Chad’s focus on tasks, rather than results. Instead, I engaged Chad by pausing him and replying: “Really? You did that? WHY is that important? Can you tell me a story?”

Which begs the question: What stories can you tell? People love stories because they can relate to them. A concise, results-focused story will enable you to emotionally connect with your prospect, and define your value proposition at the same time.

If you are prospecting for a job, here is a template that might help you develop a story from a previous work engagement:

“When I worked at [name of employer], we had the recurring issue of [identify the problem here], which led to [what did this problem cost in terms of time, money and/or resources]. After some evaluation, I/we [state the solution you created or identified, and thus implemented] which then [describe the outcomes that were created]. This resulted in [the measurable benefit to your employer and other stakeholders].”

How many stories or scenarios from your employment history can you develop and share? What would all of these stories then have in common?

The principle is the same for sales professionals and business owners:

“Not long ago, one of our clients was facing the problem of [identify the issue here], and it was causing [articulate, in measurable terms (time, money, lost sales, etc.), what the issue was costing them]. We sat down with the client and focused in on what the real issue was, and together we [describe the solution that was implemented], which led to [state your measurable, positive results, and the impact it had on all stakeholders]. ”

Again, how many stories or scenarios from your service history can you develop and share? Develop three and then compare and determine what all of these stories have in common. List them out.

Important Note: This need not always be told from the negative (which is reactive in nature). It can also be told from the positive (proactive). Instead of a “problem” that is addressed, you may do yourself better by telling the story of an opportunity (which is what problems are)–indeed that should be the ultimate lesson learned: how was this problem translated into an opportunity to create a positive result?

To engage with a story is often the first step to successfully communicating your VALUE PROPOSITION. This is crucial to getting your foot in the door of new prospects. The purpose of the Value Proposition is simple: to give your prospect a reason to want to have a 20-minute conversation with you. Not to buy…but to engage. That’s it.

About the Author Keith Luscher

Keith F. Luscher is a management consultant focusing on advanced prospecting, content and automated marketing strategies. He is also author of the book Prospect & Flourish (the fourth edition of which is available) and is principal of SYP Media, LLC.

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