Facts Tell, Stories Sell

My wife is always telling me that she drifts off when I’m talking about facts or figures.

I think she’s on to something, because most people do have a limited digestion for a steady diet of facts and figures, preferring a well-told story every time.

American author Brian Morton said it this way:

The world, the human world, is bound together not by protons and electrons, but by stories.”

And, in my opinion, he’s right.

The idea saying, facts tell, stories sell, has become a popular sales mantra only in the last decade or so, but the concept is already well known to all successful salespeople.

To new salespeople, the idea is stated like this:

If you have to talk, atleast tell a good story.

OK, so what makes a good story?

The three basic parts of a good story are: the situation or challenge, the effort or struggle to overcome the problem; the resolution or answer.

Here are five steps that will get you going on the right track.

1. An initial confusion develops, causing a problem or conflict (indecision, fear of making a mistake), or challenge;

2. A temporary fix is accomplished and things settle down;

3. Problem reappears, failed attempts with more confusion, stress and bruised feelings leading to more confusions, more challenges and more failed solutions;

4. At last, to everyone’s surprise, the true, unexpected, source of the problem is discovered;

5. Proper solution is implemented; problem or challenge is dissolved.

The theme should grow out of the story. Don’t preach, just tell the story and let the listener figure things out for themselves.

A good story has humanity. Emotions are human. Problems are human, confusions and complexities are human; attempted and failed solutions are human. Since time immemorial all people have had troubles, worries, stresses, difficulties and problems.

The emotional connection is the key to a good story. It has to make you feel something. If it doesn’t affect you emotionally, it’s forgettable and commonly is forgotten instantly.

Finally, a good story has to catch your attention. Think about the best stories, movies, TV shows, books, etc., that you’ve heard, seen or read; what was the first thing that captured your attention?

I’m willing to bet, it was the element of surprise.

It can be a sudden unpredicted change, or a startling unexpected twist or turn in the story, or any other unforeseen, mystifying event that appears out of the blue. The perplexing quality of the surprise is what captures attention and ignites your imagination.

This factor is common in all living things. Mystery, curiosity, some oddity or pecularity; it’s the “What is that?” phenomena that can’t be ignored.

People love a mystery, a surprise, something they haven’t thought of. If they can predict how the story is going to end before you get there, it’s boring. Surprise them and you’ll get and keep their attention.

Even when you know these facts, it still requires disciplined practice to tell a good story.

Anybody can recite a set of facts or rattle of statistics or figures and read a power-point slide. This will not surprise anyone. And it won’t catch anyone’s attention.

You want them to be interested in what you’re saying?

Surprise them with a good story and you may be surprised at how well it works.

daniel w. jacobs
(c) 2012 – 2030, all rights reserved


One Response to “Facts Tell, Stories Sell”

  1. There are two types of stories: fear stories of stories of hope. I look forward to your book

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