We learn through stories. We are hardwired for narrative. Why do you think so many of us binge watch Netflix? There is something thrilling and addictive about following a familiar narrative arc from struggle through to triumph.
Just as our Actionable Conversations platform taps into the neuroscience of behaviour change to create sustainable cultures of learning, organizations can similarly tap into that addictive power of stories to achieve sustainable change and drive learning toward clear, desired outcomes.
A few weeks ago many of us here at Actionable had an engaging conversation about Andy Raskin’s blog post “The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen.” In this piece Raskin argues that, to truly engage potential customers, you need to tell a compelling, urgent story in your pitches. And that story, he says, has several key elements. You need to name a high-stakes change or force at play in the world, and demonstrate that some will win and many will lose. You also need to paint a vibrant picture of what success and winning will look like. Finally, you must show, with convincing evidence, that you have the means and the ability to get people to that success.
Raskin’s article is about harnessing the power of story to make people truly feel the why of your product or service, and to help them envision a better world with your product/service in it. What is true for sales is also true for great learning cultures: are you harnessing the power of story to bolster and reinforce your learning initiatives, truly bringing them alive? Maybe you are good at demonstrating the short term value of particular learning, but are you painting the long-term picture of ROI for your clients as well?
If you develop your communication skills, you can better understand your customers, and sell more of your stuff. That isn’t just a story.
Help your teams name the forces at play in their industry. What is at stake? Who are the potential winners and losers, and what will put you on the right side of that equation? Are you painting a truly tantalizing picture of what Raskin calls “The Promised Land”? This description should include what it would mean for several players—your organization as a whole, for those you serve, and for employees. Telling the story of success as it pertains to all individuals affected will help you to craft pitches that sell.
When I’m talking to consultants about potentially partnering with Actionable, the heart of our conversation is about what their Promised Land will be—how the platform will get them where they need to go in their business AND how the platform will provoke and sustain exceptional work cultures for their clients. Will I be less exhausted if I can get away from the front of the classroom all the time? Will I have a more predictable revenue stream, freeing me up to spend time on client solutions—the place I like to work most? Will my clients look to me for strategic advice but thank me for helping them ingrain a sustainable culture of continual learning? Of course we need to talk about the functionality of the software, but we start with how they as consultants and their clients are going to feel: energized, empowered, wealthier in time, money, and truly actionable learning.
Continually remind your client teams where they are at in the stories they’re developing with your guidance, just like the recap sequence at the beginning of a TV episode. What are the wins and losses to date? Which “characters” are helping get you to that desired goal? Re-tell the story, describe the desired ending, and clearly state what that person’s vital role is in getting there.
Our brains are wired to process the world around us through narrative. By harnessing the power of a great story, you can improve your sales pitches, persuade your customers, and engage your employees.