Tuesday, 28 July 2015

3 keys to effective selling narratives How to Tell a Persuasive Story

Have you noticed how the word  " narrative " is all pervading our conversation of late?

Whether it’s the 'impact of premium narrative games in the App store', or that 'the West must disrupt the ISIS narrative' ,  or exposing an opposition’s 'false narrative'  the word NARRATIVE is used almost everywhere at the moment.

Telling Your Story

All salespeople need to have the ability of telling the story of their product, service of company as part of their skills set. You may need it ready for your elevator pitch, the writing of white papers, or for formal presentations.

A good narrative is like a recipe – certain "ingredients" need to be part of the mix for it to be a success.

Frame Incident Gratification FIG
Most great stories have three essential elements: Frame, Incident, and Gratification - to remember this think of the fruit  F.I.G.

The Olive Tree and the Fig Tree - an Aesop Fable . A ancient story told in just 77 words

THE OLIVE-TREE ridiculed the Fig-Tree because, while she was
green all the year round, the Fig-Tree changed its leaves with
the seasons. (Frame
A shower of snow fell upon them, and, finding the Olive full of foliage, it settled upon its branches and broke them down with its weight, at once despoiling it of its beauty
and killing the tree. (Incident)

 But finding the Fig-Tree denuded of
leaves, the snow fell through to the ground, and did not injure it at all.(Gratification)

Now lets take a closer look at the three ingredients of a story

The current National Gallery exhibition
 demonstrates how frames – designed as removable items 
to enhance a painting only since the early 1500s 
– can be considered works of art in their own right,
 and can transform the way we look at paintings.
 Well worth a visit and it's free!
Frame -  (once upon a time)

Like a frame for a picture that sets the painting in a particular space, so a narrative benefits from a fitting frame

Framing the context is the element most neglected by salespeople. Without framing your context, your story may confuse or bore your audience.

The frame provides the background information that listeners or readers need to make sense of your story. It should also spark their interest and make a connection, so that they care about what you have to say.

Context needs to address four key questions.

1. Where and when does this story take place? – Establish the "when" and "where" of your story, and clarify whether it's fact or fiction.
2. Who is the main character? – This needs to be someone who your audience can connect with. In most cases, you are the main character.
3. What does he or she want? – Explain what your main character wants to accomplish.
4. Who, or what, is in the way? – Every story needs an obstacle or villain. This can be a person, an event, or a challenge.

As you think about how to tell your sales story, plan how you'll answer the above four questions. It's also important to be authentic  , particularly  when telling a personal story.

Here is a sales story that shows age and lack of capital are no barrier to entrepreneurial success. What is needed is an idea that is actioned through planning and dogged persistence.


"He was 65 years old when he received his first social security check of $99. He owned a small house and a beaten up old car. 


We engage with a narrative packed with incident

Every great story needs incident: ups and downs, setbacks, conflicts, failures, and battles. The incident is where we experience defeats and learn lessons.

In your story, your main character must "do" something. Ideally, he or she will experience a setback, failure, or problem along the way. Obstacles create tension and forge an important connection with your audience, because everyone experiences them daily.

Frame Incident Gratification FIG

He made a decision that he had to change things. The only idea he had was a chicken recipe which his friends liked. With that idea in mind , he took colossal  action.  He left his home in Kentucky and travelled to many states in the United States to sell his idea. 
He told restaurant owners that he had a chicken recipe that people liked and he was giving it to them for free. 

What he wanted in return was was for the restaurant owner to pay him a small percentage on the chicken pieces sold.


At the end of your story, you reveal your main character's fate. You also need to explain, subtly, what your audience should have learnt from this result. What is the moral? Why did you tell this story?


He got rejections after rejections but did not give up. In fact he got over 1000 rejections. He got 1009 ‘no’s before he got his first ‘yes’.

With that one success Colonel Harland Saunders changed the eating habits of the whole world with Kentucky Fried Chicken  "
Frame Incident Gratification FIG

The above is clearly a precis of a very remarkable story. Read up about the Colonel on Wikipedia - it is an inspiring life story.

Further Tips as a Sales Story teller.:

Great storytellers know that a powerful story is only part of what inspires people to listen. Follow the tips below to become a better storyteller.

Listen – The best storytellers are also the best listeners. Brush up on your active listening   skills, and give others your full attention when they tell a story.

Practise – Rehearse your story before you tell it. Even if you practise on your own, just once, in front of a mirror or on your camera phone, this can improve your storytelling.

Create an experience – When you tell a story, you create an experience for your listeners. Appeal to all five senses; don't just tell them.

Key Points

Business storytelling is the art of using stories to communicate and connect with customers, suppliers, partners, and anyone else involved with your organisation. The purpose of business stories should have a specific goal or desired outcome rather than purely entertainment .

To tell a great sales story, it's vital to be genuine. Use stories that tell other people more about who you are, and why you're here. 

And, don't be too afraid to tell stories that show failure, poor judgement, or mistakes on your part. When you're prepared to appear vulnerable in front of others, you can quickly establish trust and rapport.

One last thought: 

Will our business cards in future include titles like Engagement craftsman, Business Narrator, Sales story teller ? After all we have titles now like Content manager and  Business evangelist....

Good Selling. Good Narrating folks. 

Related links

Friday, 24 July 2015

A wry smile, a Rye smile, a #selling smile

*Smaidošā seja ir puse maltīte 

When you're smilin' keep on smilin'The whole world smiles with youAnd when you're laughin' oh when you’re laughin'The sun comes shinin' through 
-Louis Armstrong

* There is a Latvian proverb which in translation goes “A smiling face is half the meal”. 

Part of the Mermaid Hotel , Rye, Sussex  rebuilt in 1420 !
 I have just returned from a short leisure break spent in the historic Cinque port town of Rye in Sussex. 

I stayed at the historic Mermaid Hotel. 

At the evening dinner, the food was perfect, the wine was perfect, the lighting was perfect, the table, chairs and décor were perfect.( many thanks to Patrick, Steven, Sam, and all the team at the Mermaid who made the experience so memorable)

Right from the start of the experience it was the a warm, generous, kind, accepting, and attentive attitude of the waiting staff that set the tone for a fabulous evening. 

(Even when on holiday I can seldom switch off from appreciating the fruits of success – selling skills !!!

A smiling face is 50% of the meal,
the food is 25%, 
the beverages are 15%,
the décor is 5%, 
and the rest is 5%
Whatever you sell or offer in customer service there is much we all can learn from a great professional restaurant experience.

This post is about our smile

Do you make the most of your smiling opportunities?  Have a go at this Smiling audit.

•             Do you smile while you're say your company’s name ? Y/N
•             Do you smile while you're talking about what your company does? Y/N
•             Do you smile while you say your product’s name ? Y/N
•             Do you smile even when you're on a phone call and your client can't see you? Y/N
•             Do you smile during video-conference calls? Y/N
  • Are you smiling in your professional head shot or LinkedIn/Facebook profile photos on social networks?

Do you know how many times you've smiled so far today?

For a smile to be effective, sincerity counts.

If our smile is clearly forced or false, it will do more damage than good.

Although fake smiles look similar to real smiles, research  has shown that the difference between the two can actually be identified via specific facial muscles.

 A spontaneous smile (also called the "Duchenne smile," named after French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne) is generated in the unconscious brain by emotion and is accompanied by movement in the small muscles around the eyes

 A forced smile, by contrast, comes from the conscious brain and lacks association with any emotion.

Aleksandr learning to smile in adversity
 in the stocks at Rye, near the Ypres Tower Inn

A wry smile in Rye 
Learn to develop a naturally upbeat personality and smile frequently throughout the day and during interactions with your customers and prospects.

This simple feat also happens to be one of our most effective ways to cut through adverse situations, conflicts, and disappointment.

 Similarly develop a smile practice for those nervous situations such as presenting to groups
 If you've just been told no or a deal has fallen through, a smile is your first defence against negativity.

As motivation specialist Ryan C Lowe points out in his book  "Get off your Attitude", a smile draws people in because it "projects positivity."

"A smile is a positive response to life, smiling triggers to your subconscious that you are in control of your emotions. You are choosing to be positive."

He suggests we learn to smile at adversity. 

"We're all dealing with difficult situations, even if you're talking with people who don't have 

time or money or don't want to listen to you, smile anyway. Don't allow those negative emotions to take control of you and your life."

Training yourself to smile more. Training Tip.

One way I practise smiling is when I am in a long queue at the supermarket.

 There is little one can do about joining the line so when you see that queue make yourself smile in your eyes and face. 

  • Open up a conversation and smile
  • The time will go quicker and you will feel a whole lot better.
  • You will also notice how you will cheer up others in the queue.

There is  also good science behind all this smiling business.

Recent research ( May 2015)  led by Stefania Righi, Ph.D. at the University of Florence in Italy  suggests that we should smile whenever you first meet someone for example at a networking event. 

Prospects are more likely to remember you if you met them smiling and in a comfortable context.

In the study, the researchers presented participants with a series of faces that were either smiling or fearful, alongside images of happy scenes like a party or fear-inducing scenes like a car crash. (The study did not test the effects of neutral faces or scenes.)

Then participants were shown those faces again and asked to remember whether they’d seen them before. Results showed that previously seen happy faces were remembered better than fearful faces — but only when they were initially presented alongside a happy scene.

The researchers propose two potential theories for why happy faces in happy contexts were remembered best.

 1.  The combination of two happy images could enhance people’s ability to pay attention, as previous research has suggested.

 2.  Smiling faces might encourage people to bind together the image and its context more than fearful faces do.

Why so ?

The researchers suggest that it’s possible people evolved this way because smiling people indicate “potential friend[s]” and remembering them could be useful in future encounters.

While networking can be exhausting, it’s worth it to engage a smile right before you go up and meet someone .

 Another good tip: Share something in common

 According to marketing strategist and Duke University professor Dorie Clark, you should talk about something you have in common with that person so they’re more likely to trust and relate to you.

Highlights from the  Righi,research:

•  Fearful and happy expressions differently affect memory for identity and contexts.
•  Happy expressions and happy-scenarios enhance face identity memory.
•  Socially positive signals conveyed by smiling faces prompt memory binding.

Their findings highlight that socially positive signals conveyed by smiling faces may prompt memory for identity and context. 

This is useful for Salespeople to know.

So as in another song back in the day....

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through for you Nat King Cole

Related Links and further reading

Ryan C. Lowe, author of Get off Your Attitude: Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life

Monday, 20 July 2015

Soft-Power Selling attracts and co-opts buyers.

In negotiation, power at the start of he process is seen to be equally or nearly balanced since there is an agreement in principle.

During a commercial negotiation, power swings to and fro in the exchanges.

In Selling, on the other hand, the power tends to lean towards the Buyer’s side whether to engage or not up the point of the close / agreement.

In "soft selling", the salesperson uses a more subtle, casual, or friendly way to convey the sales message.

As the changes of  power in countries  from the West to  the East , so sales people (who can be viewed as a microcosm of their country) may need to develop their skills in soft power selling.

Soft power as a concept, was developed by Joseph Nye at Harvard University to describe the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, use force or give money as a means of persuasion. His primary work was on countries but he developed it to applications in Leadership in 2008.
The iconic '99'  the allure of the soft sell !


If we by extension consider soft power as part of a salesperson’s skill set some interesting things result.

Soft power attracts even on the south bank 
of the Thames - Golden Jubilee Bridge in background
The primary currencies of soft power are a salesperson's values, culture, policies and institutions – and the extent to which these "primary currencies", as Nye calls them, are is the ability to attract or repel other. salespeople people to persuade buyers to "want what you want."

Nye  describes  elsewhere that soft power is the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, use force or give money ( discounting) as a means of persuasion.

Nye argues that soft power is more than influence, since influence can also rest on the hard power of threats or payments.

 Soft power is more than just persuasion or the ability to move people by argument, though that is an important part of it.
 It is also the ability to attract, and attraction often leads to consent.

 SOURCE   Power 30 index 
The development of the Soft Power index produces an international table which this year puts the UK top. (There are not too many such tables  with UK on top as once were !)

In this new and evolving context, soft power – the ability to achieve objectives through attraction, and persuasion – is ever more crucial to the effective conduct of foreign policy and ultimately shaping global events.

But using soft power is impossible without a clear understanding of the resources that underpin it.

What underpins Soft Power ?

This index is an  assessment and comparison of global soft power – aims to bring new clarity and understanding to the soft power resources of the world’s major nations.
Soft power seeks to achieve influence by :-

  • building networks,
  • communicating compelling narratives,
  • establishing international rules,
  • and drawing on the resources that make a country naturally attractive to the world, as opposed to gun boat diplomacy!

All these are recognisable skills to a modern salesperson.

The various metrics used to make up the index are divided into 6 categories.

Engagement, Culture, Government Education Digital and Enterprise.

For a country these categories are defined as

The strength of a country’s diplomatic network and its contribution to global engagement and development

The global reach and appeal of a nation’s cultural outputs, both pop-culture and high-culture

Commitment to freedom, human rights, and democracy, and the quality of political institutions

The level of human capital in a country, contribution to scholarship, and attractiveness to international students

A country’s digital infrastructure and its capabilities in digital diplomacy

The attractiveness of a country’s economic model, business friendliness, and capacity

There are of course opponents to Nye who argue power is rested on economic incentives and force.

Simply the Best
The 'Tina Turner' of  Soft Ice Creams
- the '99' flake
Few salespeople would want to resort entirely to soft power but as part of our palette, we will need to draw upon it increasingly.

So we might adapt the 'six' categories into:

  • Engagement, Prospecting New Business Development , Networking 
  • Culture, Ambassadorial and Diplomatic : Selling style
  • Administration/ Account Management
  • Training  
  • Digital literacy : Social Media
  • and Entrepreneurship

Related links

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Pierre-François Palloy (1754 - 1835), early #VUCA Sales entrepreneur

Bonne Fête  Nationale  Joyeux  Quatorze  Juillet

Back in Revolutionary France of 1789 it would be fair to say things were-

and ambiguous.

It was a VUCA period back then. VUCA is not, it appears, a peculiarly  21st century phenomenon.

Pierre-François Palloy was born in 1755 in Paris. Leaving school at the age of fifteen he joined the French Royal Army. On leaving his military career he married the daughter of a building contractor and joined the trade himself, eventually taking over his new family's business.

By 1789 he had made the company one of the largest building firms in Paris, employing 400 workers.

 To be a successful sales entrepreneur in 1789, you needed to have vision on how to respond to the volatility of the politics ,
 understanding how to tackle the uncertainly of social upheaval,
 a clarity of  thought to work through the complexity of revolution
and not a little agility to turn the ambiguities of the times to your commercial advantage.

The  Bastille prison only contained seven inmates at the time of its storming but was a symbol of the abuses of the monarchy.

When the Bastille fell on 14 July 1789 there was some debate as to what should replace it, or indeed if it should remain as a monument to the past.

However, Palloy knew  what he wanted to do and by the evening had begun the process of dismantling the structure; he secured the contract to demolish the building two days later.

Although Palloy did not receive the official payment for several years, he knew how to profit from the possession of such an iconic structure.

Diversification into Tourism

Remember in Revolutionary France, we are back in the era of Madame Tussaud and her first wax figure of Voltaire in 1777 , Her death masks were held up as revolutionary flags and paraded through the streets of Paris.  In 1794 she inherited a vast collection of wax models and spent the next 33 years travelling around Europe. Tourism was developing !
So at the Bastille, Palloy's staff conducted tours, for a fee, to show the public around the basements and dungeons with skeletons as props! 

 Palloy labelled himself a patriot ( vainqueur)  and emphasised the symbolism of the Bastille, writing speeches, painting pictures, and even arranging celebratory festivals and theatrical reconstructions of the day the Bastille fell.

The ruins of the Bastille rapidly became iconic across France..Palloy had an altar set up on the site in February 1790, formed out of iron chains and restraints from the prison.

 Old bones, thought to have been of 15th century soldiers, were discovered during the clearance work in April and, presented as the skeletons of former prisoners, were exhumed and ceremonially reburied in Saint-Paul's cemetery.

Events management

 In the summer, a huge ball was held by Palloy on the site for the National Guardsmen visiting Paris for the 14 July celebrations of 1790.

Memorabilia Industry

A memorabilia industry surrounding the fall of the Bastille was already flourishing and as the work on the demolition project finally dried up, Palloy started producing and selling memorabilia of the Bastille.

 Palloy's products, which he called "relics of freedom", celebrated the national unity that the events of July 1789 had generated across all classes of the citizens of France  and included a very wide range of items.

 Palloy also sent models of the Bastille, carved from the fortress's stones, as gifts to the French provinces at his own expense to spread the revolutionary message.

Successful selling requires an understanding of the VUCA context in which we find ourselves. 

Over the next few decades a new set of selling practices and skills will need to be adopted. Sales professionals need to rethink their sales approach.

Considering the VUCA world of today and the challenge this has for buyers and sellers we need to adapt with similar deftness  as one  Pierre-François Palloy showed back in the day.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

A Test of Character at the Oval .Who will bridge the gap of success at Trent Bridge ? LORDS Test Ashes SELL Who will have the Edge at Edgbaston ?

My  Chicago Cubs wallet
As a Limey ( a Brit) I can’t say  I understand baseball that well , but my adopted team are Chicago Cubs - as this very well worn wallet after a trip over to the states years ago testifies.

Many baseball terms trip off our tongues in Business English even if we have never seen or played the game.

e.g. new ball game, ballpark figures, covering all bases, curve ball, getting to first base , Major league ,Minor League,  (Sales) pitch , Stepping up to the plate 

Today is the opening of the new Ashes  Cricket Series when The Aussies and the Poms  ( Australia and England) battle out to win the little urn which must be one of the smallest trophies in sport - but no less a huge honour to compete for.

For many enthusiasts in England and down in Aus  they will be glued to their TV sets or at the various Mecca's of Test Cricket in England and Wales in person to see the matches live. 

So for my American friends who get confused of Cricketing metaphors that can crop up in sales communication with Brits ,I thought you might find useful and even entertaining to help to improve better communication.

For British readers and cricketing fans it may also help to alert us when we use such expressions  subconscious some buyers may not know what on earth we are on about !!!

Painting in the Bush Hotel Farnham ( Mercur)
Bats and kit have changed quite a lot
Batting average:  The measurement of a batsman’s consistency with scoring. “John has a good  batting average in his new business sales”
Broken his duck: When a batsman’s score rises above zero  “ David broke his duck with the Henderson deal”
Cleaned bowled:  A bowler knocks out a batsman by directly hitting the stumps with the ball, without the batsman's bat touching it. “The salesman was clean bowled by the buyer’s questions
Fielding:   Cricketer out in the field trying to catch the ball.  “ You need to field a lot of questions from the purchasing committee”
Good Innings:  In cricket, a good innings lasts a long time and results in a team scoring lots of runs. “Carole  sold for TACK for 30 years. He had a good innings!”
Hit for six: The highest score a batsman can score with a single hit is six.  “We were  hit for six by your  superior proposal.”

How’s that for openers :  Expression used when a player scores a lot of runs off one of his first attempts.  “I have plans to put a new sales management software system for the whole team. How's that for openers!”
Painting in the Bush hotel Farnham , mercur hotel

In to bat :  The cricket player's turn to try to achieve some runs. “The CEO has put his financial controller in to bat.”
It’s not cricket : Boxing involves some dubious practices. It's not cricket.  “You can't bring up things about the man's family. It's not cricket!”
Keep his end up : At any one time 2 batsmen are batting at opposite end of the pitch. Each one has to perform by keeping his end up. “I hope that the Distributors will keep their end up in the next  campaign season.”
Off one’s own bat:   All the runs contributed by one individual player. “ She organised the charity event off his own bat. She made all the arrangements herself.”
On the back foot :  When a batsman is trying to defend his wicket, he leans more on his back foot. “He is not so brash now that he is on the back foot.
Sticky wicket:  The pitch or wicket in cricket can be affected by rain or sun to cause its surface to become unpredictable “He was on a sticky wicket trying to explain why €50,000 had appeared in his account.”
Stumped: In cricket, a batsman is out if the ball strikes the stumps. “I was stumped by the impossible demands of my supplier.”

Up stumps : Abandon the game  “HSBC has upped stumps and moved back to Hong Kong.

OK Here is the whole game of cricket summarised in 5 sentences. 

Yes founded in 1782 !  My home town's cricket ground.
A bit older than Chicago Cubs (1874) and Wrigley Field 1916
You have two sides one out in the field and one in.

Each man that’s in the side that’s in the side that’s in, goes out and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out.

When they are all out the side that’s out goes in and the side that has been in goes out and tries to get those coming in out.

Bowler about to deliver the ball
Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When both sides have been in and out including the not outs.

That’s the end of the game


The crazy thing is that this  does describe the game entirely yet the description is baffling to the non-cricketer.

It is a reminder to we in selling is to mind our language.

Come on England !

and of course Go Cubs Go !

Related Links

Selling Words - Grammar and selling

Monday, 6 July 2015

11 useful questions in the sponsorship sell

You may not have the budgets or size of support team to run a sports sponsorship  project such as  Wimbledon fortnight but the same basic questions are involved at whatever event you wish to open a relationship with potential sponsors.  

If you are looking for support to sponsor your church fete, your youth club or whatever  first you need to see it from the client's point of view. Then express from their point of view by personalising your offer ( see related links)
Evidence of a tantrum at
 Farnham Tennis Courts

 also now known as
"Blowing a Gasquet"

Gasquet smashed a racket in anger 
after failing to capitalise on
 two match points in the third-set
 tie-break in his match at Wimbledon
 against Nick Kyrgios 6th Jully 2015

Preparing and research answers to these questions will help you put together your offering and it is likely to be more persuasive

Basic Sponsorship Check list from their viewpoint

  1. What are their specific objectives for undertaking sponsorship of this  event?
  2. How does it fit into their marketing plan ?
  3. Is there a contractual period required?
  4. What criteria will you  and they use to judge the success or failure of this event?
  5. Does the event fit in with the image of their company wishes to project?
  6. What kind of coverage will your event receive e.g. press , television etc?
  7. What other companies organisations will be sponsoring the event and what will their involvement be?
    Anyone remember the wooden
     Dunlop Maxply  Tennis Racket ?
    Display in Borough Market,
    Southwark, London
  8. What form will their sponsorship take e.g. provision of equipment, clothing, gifts 'in kind' for prizes, donations loans etc.?
  9. Do other events clash with your proposed activity?
  10. How will the event be promoted prior to the day ?
  11. Where will their company logo  web address appear?Programmes,  posters, hoardings etc

"The Coffee of Wimbledon" LavAzza
Related Links

How to personalise your Sponsorship Offer