Storytelling

These paintings are among the most famous in the world. What is so unique about these are some of the oldest art in the world. From 7000 to 15000 years old. One from South Africa and the other in central India.  There have been similar cave paintings discovered in all corners of the world. What is remarkable is that man at different periods of time not connected with his peers in other parts of the world decided to etch his thoughts on the cave? Why we wonder for there was no medieval court to commission art? No auctions of millions? And definitely, no likes and shares to be earned on social media.

I believe it is because man has always wanted to tell stories.  Art is one of the most powerful ways to do so. But it’s not the only one. Each civilization has tales whether Iliad’s odyssey or Vyasa’s Mahabharata or Incan stories of Viracocha. One can argue that there are different reasons create memories, religious (Ramayana or Da Vinci’s Last Supper) politics (Jacques- Louis David’s Coronation of Napoleon)   But at its crux man is telling a story. A story to compatriots, to subsequent generations even to the vanquished.

We are a species that make/ draw/ enact/ stories.  That is one of the many common threads among all humans.

Why then do we forget to tell stories when we conduct business? What is a story in a business context you may ask? Is it about a beginning and a happily ever after. No! A story here is less tangible.  It is, in fact, more to do with what you feel/ visualize/ imagine when you interact with a business. Remember the old era Parsi cafes of Mumbai, the Taj Hotels, finely crafted Benarasi sarees and others. Are such experiences only those of nostalgia then – Definitely No. Look at Tanishq and specifically Tanishq Mia which conveys stories of more contemporary times

Stories are essentially what a business communicates about itself which could range from its legacy to the experiences it brings to the customer.

I am lucky to have worked with one organization which stressed on selling via stories. At Salesforce.com we were told to share stories to our customers.  How in the B2B context is story telling important one may wonder? It is about stitching a narrative so that your customer can imagine your solution, it’s moving beyond the product features into what the product can do for YOU. It is about sharing personal stories. It is about building trust.

Before we do that we must identify the villain in the room, that stops us from doing the necessary —POWERPOINT. From using it as a powerful presentation tool we have gone to make it as our thinking tool. Most meeting preparation today begins with a discussion on how many slides are needed and what the headers will be. We have stopped thinking, talking about the idea that we are proposing. We have stopped thinking about the story or what we want the client to imagine.

An important component in storytelling is how we tell the story. I have observed that more often than not our stories are incredibly mundane. Worse than having no stories is having one that is boring. We tell our customers to buy us because we have 6 more features than our competitors. We share customer references by throwing some names but we never go beyond that. Our stories are simply not relevant! We do not tie the ends, we never stitch a story that connects—what happened when other organizations like you bought my software what did we succeed at what did we fail at, what legacy you the customer share when you stay in my hotel. These should be our talking points.

Recently on a flight, I was given a sample of a perfume launched by Titan- Skinn. It proudly and boldly said crafted in France and in small print said manufactured in Uttar Pradesh! As one of my friends suggested a perfumer is a perfect example to tell a story- use our history of royal families to craft and sell a perfume based solidly on a heritage of splendor. Instead, we choose gimmickry which is to use the cliché putting lipstick on a pig.

Till we do not start telling stories, we will continue hearing how Brand A kills 98% germs and Brand B kills 98.6% germs.

 

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