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5 Myths About Storytelling and Business

“Those who tell the stories rule the world.” –Hopi American Indian proverb

I do a lot of speaking engagements and training on narrative leadership and integrating storytelling into the sales process. No matter how much I explain that storytelling isn’t for certain audiences and certain disciplines, I still hear beliefs that resist using storytelling to influence behavior. This is one of the primary reasons that storytelling is such an underutilized, misunderstood tool.

Storytelling is universal. If you’re human, you respond to storytelling because we all have brains and that’s just how our brains work. It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking to attorneys, forensic accountants, doctors or astrophysicists – all of them are human and therefore respond to storytelling. Storytelling crosses every gender, age, culture and discipline.

There has never been a culture on the planet without storytelling! What does that tell you?

Storytelling does so much heavy lifting for you in sales presentations, speaking engagements and leadership. It moves people in a way that information alone cannot.

Here are some of the most common myths I hear about storytelling and why they’re just plain wrong.

1. What I do is too technical. Storytelling wouldn’t apply.

The truth is if what you do is technical, storytelling is even more critical to humanize the process and because if you can’t make what you do accessible and explain how your very technical work serves your clients, then how on earth will anyone understand you? And guess what? Technical people are still people!

2. I’m not a natural storyteller. I think it’s something you’re just born with.

First of all, storytelling is a skill and all skills can be learned. But you also already tell stories, I promise you. You do not talk about your vacation or dinner with your family as a list of details – you just don’t. So this notion that you aren’t telling stories is simply not true. You don’t talk about your day at work like you’re reading an agenda or describe the birth of your child as an event on a time line, you tell a story. Stop telling yourself you aren’t a storyteller- we are all storytellers.

3. My clients are bottom line people – they don’t care about storytelling.

As someone who does presentations for a living, let me assure you if someone is telling you to just get to the point, it’s not a story slowing you down, it’s your presentation which is very likely too dense, too technical or simply just boring and uninteresting. The story is not the reason they want you to move it along. Bottom line people are still people with people brains that respond to story.

4. My industry is different.

Is your industry made up of humans? Then no, it’s not different. I know you think it is but again, it just doesn’t matter what you do or how very specialized or complicated it might be, your clients are humans. Decision makers are humans and if you fail to integrate narrative, you’re working so much harder to move them.

5. I don’t have any good stories.

If you haven’t worked long enough to acquire a library of stories, then ask colleagues. Share your organization’s success. Use WE instead of I. There are stories about your company’s success – it’s your job to listen and share those stories. ASK! If you are about to meet a prospect, ask someone more senior about a success story that would be appropriate to tell your client. Don’t show up with marketing material that just a list of capabilities or features and benefits or beat them over the head with jargon that doesn’t mean anything. Come with a compelling story!

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