By Jon Michail

Recently I have found myself becoming acquainted with the notion that storytelling is an important tool to be used in the field of interest that is selling – being a surprisingly coalesced action to the art of persuasion.

Many conventional sales experts have urged against the use of storytelling, suggesting it ruins the flow of a sale, and opting to advise salespeople to go for a more hard and fast, direct approach to their selling. Storytelling in some instances grants merit to this conventional stance, but the problem isn’t storytelling itself, but rather the way it’s approached and delivered.

A recently published podcast, ‘This is your brain on podcasts’, featured a quest speaker by the name of Jack Gallant, who touched upon various ideas and notions that relate to this fascinating development. The Professor of Psychology operates out of a lab situated in the Berkeley University campus in the US, which held a series of tests on individual’s brains to see their degree of brain stimulation, or “engagement”, during a podcast listening session.

MRI machines were used to play podcasts to the subjects, and to monitor the subsequent results. A myriad of different types of content were played during the sessions, with language and delivery that ranged from emotive and upbeat, to emotional and drawn out, to stories about hardship and anguish, to those of valour and success.

What was found to be the case, almost universally, was that the statements or line of speech that related to human experiences, the language that was more story-oriented, stoked a vastly more potent and powerful response in subject’s brains than statements of the opposite kind.

“A valuable idea to be aware of for anybody interested in the concept of personal branding.”


The bridge to personal branding

The way in which this relates to personal branding is perhaps the most interesting and intriguing part – a valuable idea to be aware of for anybody interested in the concept of personal branding.

An article that was released by members of the business division at Harvard University addresses the relation between storytelling as a selling tool and personal branding, by putting forward the suggestion that business people, or anybody else involved in public speaking of some kind, should begin their speeches with a story of a riveting and human interested kind.

This ensures that the audience is engaged from the beginning, going part and parcel with the notion of “engagement” touched upon by Professor Gallant.

This is a concept we promote with our clients and has been utilised, albeit perhaps mostly in a semi-conscious manner, in print material since almost the dawn of print media’s existence. Journalists and people in the newspaper business or a related field, are mindful of the common practice in their respective realms of human interested stories being pictured on the front of papers.

The motivation behind this has always been due to the idea that stories of devastation and misfortune sell, as they appeal to the most basic and foundational emotions of people.

Since science has procured research that supports this belief, there’s obviously something to the idea beyond that of a mere anecdotal trend or the humble recommendation of your writer.

This doesn’t mean that a sales pitch or a persuasive speech requires a story of misfortune to be plugged in at the beginning before it can be labelled as successful, but it does mean that delivering a story that is concise, coherent, and relates to a human experience, is not only authentic but also necessary to enrol your audience.

Appealing to other people when you communicate (speaking and body language) or when you sell – develops your personal brand, which leads to recurring customers that become clients that refer you to their friends, colleagues and clients. You grow and develop when you tell stories that captivate and hold people’s attention, you are remembered, and your brand benefits as a result.

Related Articles: 

Lifehacker – Science and Storytelling

What do you think?

Jon Michail is Group CEO of Image Group International, an award winning author and recognised as Australasia’s No 1 image coach. Image Group International supports executives, entrepreneurs and their organisations to become iconic and monetised leadership brands.
He is a regular commentator in international media organsations ABC, CNN, NBC, Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Success, The Financial Review and Vogue.

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