When it comes to sales, using story is your best strategy.
Humans love stories— particularly when they’re interesting, engaging, and memorable. That’s why the people who sell with story have so much success: they take their sales pitch from an informational seminar to an immersive experience that their potential customers love.
Donald Miller, the Founder and CEO of StoryBrand, is not only an expert on selling with story, but also one of the trailblazers of the strategy. As he discussed in his recent DigitalMarketer workshop, the StoryBrand method works because it appeals to customers in so many ways, from entertainment, to understanding, and even to survival. And, in all of those different ways, the same result happens: your customer actually listens to what you have to say.
When you create a story about someone, especially one where they are the main character, they tend to listen. They tend to react. And, most importantly, they tend to buy.
There’s just one common problem that the storytellers have with this approach, and it can be summed up into one simple question…
“Where do I fit in to all of this?”
Your customer is undoubtedly the main character and hero of the story. You need to illustrate their narrative arc that sees them overcoming adversity and accomplishing their goals. But, if they’re the hero of the story, then how do you need to position yourself?
What Role You Play in The Story?
In your customer’s story, you are the guide.
The guide is the person that helps the main character overcome their challenges. They are characters like Yoda, Dumbledore, and Mr. Miyagi. They are the ones that are fondly remembered, but not the ones hoisting their hands in the air in victory at the end of the book or movie.
The guide’s role is critically important in almost every story because they are the ones that make the hero’s transformation possible. Without the guide, the hero wouldn’t be able to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. Just like Luke Skywalker wouldn’t be able to defeat the Sith without Yoda’s help, your customer won’t be able to achieve their goals without your products and expertise.
So, even though you play an integral part, you are not the hero in the story. And, when you are framing your customer’s story, it’s important to remember that for a couple of reasons…
You should never position yourself as the hero because it’s the hero who is ill-equipped to achieve their goals on their own. Only until the guide shows up and gives them the tools that they need can they truly achieve greatness. You don’t want to be the character that can’t manage to achieve their goals on their own, you want to be the one that helps the main character finally reach success.
The other reason is this: you don’t want 2 heroes in a story because it weakens the story’s impact on your customer. By introducing 2 heroes, and thereby 2 narrative arcs, your story and your customer’s story become totally different (and muddled).
So as much as you want to succeed, you need your customer to succeed even more. Invite your customer into a story, one where they defy the odds and win the day. Talk to your customer about their goals and wishes, not your own. Put your customer first in everything you do.
Then, once your customer understands and begins on the path toward success, you will also succeed in the process. Don’t focus on your own wants and needs. Do nothing but be helpful, and then stand back and watch the pieces fall into place.
If you can manage to do that, then you won’t ever have to worry about your own personal success. It’ll just happen on its own.
How to Establish Yourself as the Guide
Now that you understand the role that you’re supposed to play, you now have to understand how to actually play it. We talked about it broadly, but let’s get more specific.
To truly position yourself as the guide, you have to show that you are the person who can help your customer accomplish their goals. To do that, you have to exhibit empathy and authority.
In the case of empathy, you have to show your customer that you actually care. You should make them understand that not only do you feel bad that they are going through a problem with their business, but that you think it’s borderline unfair that they are having to experience it in the first place. If you can show that you actually care about your customer’s problem (and helping them solve it), then they will be significantly more inclined to have you help them fix it.
In case of authority, you essentially need to demonstrate your competency. You need to prove that this isn’t the first time that you’ve helped a customer solve a problem and achieve their goals. By showing to your customer that you are equipped to help them solve their problems, and that you have a track-record of success, you are going to sell them on you being the solution to their problems. You’re going to establish trust, which is a necessary component of any business relationship.
Crafting your Brand Script
Empathy and authority are the two parts of the equation when it comes to your specific role as the guide in your brand “script.” It’s also important to note that they aren’t exclusive to each other. If you can only establish one of either empathy and authority, then your whole positioning plan will fall apart.
You need to establish both empathy and authority and, when talking to your customer, you ideally need to do it in one or two sentences. If you can quickly establish both of those things, then you’re going to have an enormous amount of success.
So, what that really means is you need to plan ahead. You need to attempt to anticipate what kind of problem your customer is going to have. That way you can integrate the skeleton of your statement of authority and empathy into your brand script, and then fill it in with the specifics when they become known to you.
Once you have that statement strong and clear, then you will have effectively set the framework to position yourself as the guide. Then you can focus on making sure the rest of the parts of your customer’s story fall into place. You can worry about filling out the rest of your brand script.
Just remember that, no matter how important it is, where you fit in your customer’s story is only one piece of a very large puzzle. If you want to learn more about the StoryBrand process, and learn how to finish your customer story, check out Donald Miller’s workshop.
By positioning yourself as the guide in your customer story, you play an integral part in their success without detracting from the fact that it’s their success, not yours. You want your customer to be able to turn to you in their time of need so you can help them solve their problems, and the best way to do that is by showing them that not only are you capable, but you also care.
Once your customer believes that, you can effectively help them achieve the success that they envision for themselves.
And, in the process, you’re going to get paid.
Then, once your customer is happy and their story is fulfilled, you can move on to the next one and repeat the process. What could be better than that?