Why Stories Work

Stories work because they touch hearts and minds. Stories appeal to the emotions of your audience. Here's an example. By the way, it's a story:

When I was an elevator sales rep, I was taught to stress quality, reliability and durability. I had a briefcase full of brochures. When that was all I had, the sale always came down to price. The buyers were not moved by my facts or my brochures. The buyers picked the lowest bidder. The sellers were lucky if they made five-percent profit on the new installation sale. 

Frankly, I thought it was insane to base a purchase solely on price. Among all the elevator manufacturers, quality ranged from Exceptional to Junk. Yet they were all viewed the same by the buyers, because price was the determining factor. 

I tried an experiment. I left my brochures in the trunk of my car. I walked into a contractor's office and told them a story. It went something like this:

You have said that you want the right elevator for the right price. That’s the same thing Joe told me last week. He felt that the lowest price means the best deal. He assumed that all elevators are equal, except for their brand name and their price.

I invited Joe to take a little ride with me. First, we stopped at a five-year old building using one of my competitor’s elevators. We looked at the quality of the fixtures; some of the plastic faceplates were cracked. We got into one of the elevators and rode to the tenth floor. The ride was noisy and bumpy. Some of the other passengers were complaining how the elevators were always breaking down.

Back in the street, Joe asked why those elevators were installed in the first place. My answer: because they had the lowest price to the general contractor on bid day. Joe shook his head in disbelief.

Then, Joe and I walked across the street to a ten-year old building where my company’s elevators are installed. The fixtures looked better. They seemed to be more durable. Joe and I took a ride. It was quiet and smooth. Most of our fellow passengers were chatting about everything except the elevators. One passenger, obviously a new tenant, was talking about how he moved from the building across the street because of its unreliable, noisy elevators.

When we returned to my car, I asked Joe if he would prefer to be a tenant in the first building or the second building. Joe said that of course he would choose the second building. As a general contractor, he could not afford to damage his reputation by putting up a building with poorly-performing heating, plumbing, electrical or elevator systems. Joe just ordered a new elevator system from me yesterday.

I know you want the same outcome that Joe will receive: a high-quality elevator system that attracts tenants instead of driving them away. To achieve what Joe will achieve, all you have to do is choose the elevator system that Joe chose: mine.

I sold several elevator installation contracts that never went to bid. Having a smooth, reliable elevator system was more important to the general contractors than saving a little money and winding up with a piece of junk. I built greater value in the mind of the buyers. Even though my price may have been a little higher up front, my value was always much higher than my price. 

...and I did it with a story...

What stories have you used to increase your sales and margins?