Understand the four main elements that all great stories have: a hero, a villain, a struggle, and a lesson. Once you understand these four story elements, you can spot a great story when you come across one.
- What is it that makes a great story a great story? Is it a plot filled with drama and intrigue, a surprise ending, an emotional climax, witty dialogue? Of course, all of those things are important. But above all else, these three things make a great story, a hero we care about, a villain we're afraid of, and an epic battle between them. Any great story, not just a sales story, has these three elements at its foundation. What those three elements translate into is a relatable main character facing a relevant challenge and an honest struggle between them. And since this is a sales story and not just an entertainment story, we have to add a fourth item to the list, and that is that the audience learns a worthy lesson from it. In fact, that's the first element you should consider in choosing a story, the lesson it teaches. In my experience, many business people significantly underestimate the importance of the lesson in the story selection process. I can't tell you how many emails I get from people who ask, "Hey, I've got a big presentation next week, "got any good stories I could use?" As if I could recommend a good story without having the slightest clue what their presentation is about or what their objectives are. Stories should be like every other set of words that come out of your mouth at work, intentional and productive. Next, let's talk about the relatable main character. The most compelling character for your story is someone your audience can identify with. That means they can either imagine themselves in the same position or working with that person, in other words, a customer, a supplier, a boss, a subordinate, or even a competitor. Here, you want to avoid the Superman effect. If you tell me a story about how Superman saved the day, that might entertain me, but it won't help me do my job because I can't fly or bend steel bars with my hands. But you tell me a story about my predecessor five years ago when they had my job and were struggling with the same problems I'm having now, now I'm all ears. When in doubt, choose a main character who's similar to your audience. Next, the relevant challenge. A challenge is an obstacle or opportunity the main character confronts. When it's an obstacle, the challenge plays the role of the villain in the story. Without a proper villain, it's hard for the audience to care about the hero or her struggle. But that doesn't mean the villain has to be a person. The obstacle could be an entire company, like one of your competitors, a thing, like the mountain you're trying to climb, or a situation, like Pig Island not having any food for the pigs. When it's an opportunity, the challenge is the motivating force driving the main character, like a challenging goal, say, to grow sales by 50%, or an opportunity, like a new job or a promotion. But regardless of what the challenge is, it should be relevant to the audience. That means a challenge your audience is likely to run into themselves. Lastly, let's talk about the honest struggle. The struggle between the hero and the villain is the heart of storytelling. If there's no struggle, there's no story. That means it can't be easy for the hero to get what he's after. Here's an illustration. Bob desperately needed a three-quarter-inch socket wrench to finish his project. There was simply no way to complete the job on time without one. So he reached into his toolbox, and he grabbed one. The end. Do you see how wrong that is? It's so wrong, it's actually shocking, probably because it violates our core understanding of what a story should sound like. The story has a main character, Bob, and an obstacle, the lack of a socket wrench. But there's no struggle. It's too easy. We can't care about Bob or his project until we see him struggle. If your stories have these four elements, you almost certainly have a strong story. We'll talk about other elements to make your stories even stronger later on in the course.
- What is a sales story?
- Why tell sales stories?
- The 25 sales stories you need
- How to get buyers to tell their stories
- What makes a great story great?
- Choosing the right story to tell
- Finding great stories
- Story structures
- Challenge, conflict, and resolution
- Delivering stories verbally and in writing
- The ethics of storytelling