The following is a guest blog post by the extremely talented Kelly Swanson, a motivational speaker and comedian of KellySwanson.net. For more info about Kelly and her work, please see her bio & info at the bottom of the post.
The biggest secret I have learned as a motivational speaker who uses the power of story to connect, influence, and get results, is that it is always about them – the audience – the buyer – the client. It’s not about what I want to say. It’s about what they need to hear. If you can figure out an authentic way to tell them what they need to hear, then you have entered that beautiful place where connection occurs, trust is built, and they are ready to receive what you have to offer. Kelly Swanson
Too many people focus on telling the story of what they have to sell instead of selling the story of what their customer needs to buy.
Recently I spoke as part of a tour sponsored by a healthcare organization hosting community health events for women. The theme was preventing breast cancer. I was the “lighter side” portion of the event, as some would call it when comparing it to the doctors portion that gave away tremendous health information. My “lighter side” portion of the event was focused on women loving and embracing who they are, and finding the confidence and self-love to make the right choices to reach their dreams. Judging by the tears and renewed hope, it was anything but light. A very routine part of my events is the after-show discussions with women in the audience as they give me hugs and share the tears of the journey they walk. I love how the stories I tell on stage (in sometimes as little as twenty minutes) take them from strangers with arms crossed, to women willing to hug me and share with me their deepest fears. Yes, that’s the power of story. Being that the theme of these events was breast cancer, there were many women in the room who were survivors, or new inductees into the scary life-changing club of cancer. I was talking with a woman who was sharing her story with me – a story of great challenge – as she has a very rare type of cancer to which there is no cure. As we were standing there, another woman came up to her who belonged to the same club. I watched them reach out to each other in amazement and awe, like they had been long lost twins who had just found each other after all these years. Yes, that was the excitement they felt at having found someone who understood. I quietly slipped out of the conversation because I was no longer needed. They had found something that all of us desperately seek in our lives when going through a struggle – someone else who is going through it too. We feel a profound sense of comfort and hope when we can find someone who gets it. These strangers gives us a gift that those closest to us simply can not give.
Our Customers All Have a Story
That day reminded me that all of my customers have a story. More than one, actually. They have a story of the life they live, the life they want, their struggles, their dreams, and all the broken places that need filling. Too often I focus on my story – what I want to tell them – what I feel like I need to say – what I think they should hear. But I don’t think that serves either of us very well. And it probably doesn’t serve my business either. I think the key to them receiving what I have to offer, is tapping into what they want to buy. And I do that by tapping into their story. Listening to what they want. Responding to what they dream of and what they fear.
What We Offer Has No Value Until It Becomes Part of Their Story
I am so tired of sales people trying to sell me stuff. I’m tired of them launching into a list of the reasons I need this. Stop trying to tell me I need your magic juice, or your wonderful anti-aging lotion, or the miracle recipe that is sure to turn my dinner party into a raging success. Here is what I need. I need for you to know what I need. I need for you to see where I live, and what I struggle with, and what I’m wishing for. I need for you to stop selling your story and start selling mine. I need for you to come into my world and into my heart and listen – truly listen. I don’t want to be sold to. But I am always willing to tell my story, and if you have a way for me to get the story I want, then I will listen.
Selling Is No Longer About Selling, It’s About Relationships.
We live in an economy where our client won’t buy from us until they trust us, like us, know us, believe in our story and know that we believe in theirs. As much as we are tempted to sell and convince, we are better served when we listen and truly hear. We aren’t someone with a magic potion to fix their problem. We’re someone who cares about them, who cares about their problem, and who offers solutions to help them live the life they want. When you can shift your perspective from sales person to problem solver, from seller to storyteller – you win. But even more – so do they.
So How Do We Act On This?
It’s one thing to know our customer has a story and to say we’re going to focus on that. It’s another thing to do it. Like any big change, it takes work and constant diligent effort until it becomes a natural habit. Here is what I suggest, as your Story Tutor, to help you live into this new principle of storytelling instead of selling.
1. Know your story. Who are you? Why are you here? Why have you chosen to represent this brand? What does it mean to you?
2. Know the story of what you sell. Why does it matter? How does it change lives? Why this company over another one? What makes you believe in this and why?
3. Know their story. Who are they? Who is your audience, your market, your buyer? What are their challenges and frustrations and fears? What do they wish for? What would make their lives easier? What is making their life harder? What are they dreaming of? The future they seek? What is holding them back from that? And if you don’t know their story, then how can you find out? Where do you go to get those questions answered?
4. Know how your story will help them achieve their story. How does what you have help them get what they wished for? If it won’t, you’re in the wrong market or selling the wrong product you don’t believe in. You may think there is no way to know the stories of the people you serve. But there is. One, go to social media and read their posts. You will start to see patterns. Two, ASK THEM. Shouldn’t the beginning of any relationship start with you getting to know them? ASK them and they will tell you.
There is one thing that every one of your customers cares about more than anything – themselves. You can never go wrong by keeping the conversation about them. I have had countless people try to sell me what they have, and never ask one single question about me, who I am, and what I want. I know you care about your customer and their story. You’re just used to the old way of selling, which is actually harder for you. It’s much easier if I just said to go make friends, and be the kind of friend who talks more about them than you. Your customer’s story matters. Enough said. If you still have questions just ask me. I am the Story Tutor after all.
A Good Book To Help You With This Shift in Perspective
By the way…..if you want to read a really good book on how to operate in this new economy we live in, I highly recommend that you read “Winning In The Trust and Value Economy” by Meridith Powell. Here’s her website where you can read more about it: https://meridithelliottpowell.com/
Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, motivational speaker, comedian, and author of Who Hijacked My Fairy Tale. When she’s not out performing, she’s teaching people in business to do what she does – use story to connect, influence, and get results. For more about Kelly go to: http://www.kellyswanson.net