Storytelling is a Startup Founder’s Secret Weapon

“The most powerful person in the world is the story teller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda.”

— Steve Jobs, Co-Founder Apple

Storytelling is a Superb Tool for Startup Founders:

Startup founders have a million jobs to do but fundamentally, telling the story of their idea or project is the most important. Founders need to engage with many audiences; potential co-founders or employees, customers and partners, investors, advisers and collaborators.’s Co-Founder captivating the crowd at GTEC’s Demo Day in Berlin.

Storytelling is a critical part of building a brand. Founders often try hard by focusing heavily on small details when they explain features or technologies to potential customers. This information can be valid, however, it isn’t easy or engaging to follow.

Without a clear sense of purpose, pitches can quickly become boring, uninspiring and easy to forget. If founders can deliver a clear brand narrative, it has the power to increase the value of a business’s product or service.

Founders looking to launch or scale should implement a strategic storytelling practice throughout their business including for their sales team. Here are three reasons why:

  1. The backbone of a strong marketing and sales strategy is always a clearly communicated story.
  2. Heartfelt storytelling is both human and profitable.
  3. Stories emotionally connect people and create brand loyalty.

Storytelling is the #1 Sales Tool:

Story has a number of unique abilities. It works because the human brain is drawn towards clarity and not confusion. Story is a sense-making device. It’s also a powerful tool for organizing information.

Storytelling’s the ultimate competitive advantage because it helps customers understand the benefits of using your products, ideas or services. It captures your buyer’s attention assists in building your relationship.

Your sales story is about your customer, their needs, problems, and desires. Tell a story that speaks to their pains and customers become incredibly interested in what a product or service can do for them.

Stories Must Pass the ‘So What? Test:

Listen to another person at your company trying to sell and you will probably hear them say on the phone “We make” or “We supply” or “We do x, y and z”. When a salesperson opens the conversation this way, a prospect is almost always thinking “so what?”. Starting the pitch by taking about what you do also opens the door for them to quickly shut it by replying “we already have that”.

Getting the customers attention is only going to happen when a salesperson talks about something that matters to a customer. In a sales story, your customer should be the main character and centerpiece of the action. A compelling sales story, like any traditional story, contains three acts.

Typical Storytelling Framework:

People often don’t buy the best products, they buy the best products they understand. Without a story foundation, it is hard to clarify your sales message so customers can easily fall in love with your offering. With a clearly defined three act sales story any member of startup team that needs to sell can keep the narrative moving along towards a close.

Act One:

Characters are introduced and the scene is set in the beginning — sometimes referred to as Act One. Think of it as ‘the status quo’. A typical story starts with the hero wanting something and the question becomes: will the hero get what they want? This is similar to your customer with a problem they need solved! You address your customer’s issues in Act One. Your sales story needs to start with customer issues because this is where your sales story gets its impact. Issues are not only attention grabbing but a salesperson is talking about something that is already likely on the customer’s mind.

By leading the conversation with the customer’s needs, this method also communicates to the customer that a salesperson is all about addressing their issues and the salesperson is no longer viewed as the typical product pitching sales rep that buyers often try to avoid. Instead the salesperson is now seen as an expert with solutions and is now able to start a conversation about issues already on a customer’s mind.

Act Two:

Next in the middle, the main character faces a conflict that must be overcome. This is where the main character’s world is turned upside down and they must overcome a series of obstacles to achieve their goal. Replace ‘character’ with ‘my customer’.

It’s important to simply define an offering here that your customer wants or needs, because as soon as we define this, we place an age old story question in their minds: Can this brand really help me get what I want? Be sure to use simple and clear language here.

Don’t make the mistake of leading your sales story with your offerings. It screams ‘commodity’ to the customer. Offerings are what your company does. It’s the solutions, services, or products that you will charge them for. And as mentioned above, it is a mistake to communicate that the most important part of the conversation is about what YOU sell. Sales is about your customer and fixing their problems or fitting their needs.

Act Three:

In the end a story resolves. During a traditional story the hero conquers the villain and makes the world a better place. For your sales story this is where you articulate what makes you better and different from your competitors and show why a customer should choose you. This translates to your customer conquering their ‘problem’ and their life is made better because of your product, service or idea!

Like leading with offerings, opening with differentiators makes the conversation about you and why you’re so awesome. It takes the focus off your customer. Bring this in too soon also runs the risk that the message the customer hears makes you look arrogant and only concerned about exploiting why your company is so awesome to them.

Remember: it’s not enough to just craft a compelling, tight, customer-focused sales story. The sequence of your stories three main components makes a big difference.

Follow me on Medium and Twitter @CambridgeTricia
Cambridge MBA | Marketing Consultant | Speaker | Author | Ghostwriter

Marketing Executive combining Storytelling & Digitial Technology. Techstars Mentor. Former Bloomberg Journalist. Cambridge MBA.

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