Storytelling Trickery

You tell children stories to put them to sleep,

and you tell them to adults to wake them up.

Jorge Bucay


Business storytelling seminars are currently selling like hot cakes.
With a little help from the storytelling gurus, business developers, sales executives and marketing specialists around the globe are learning to craft better stories that sell more – a lot more!

Many of the resulting business sales stories are so well crafted, with the underlying commercial intention woven into the narrative so elegantly, that their sales messages manage to bypass the critical conscious thinking filters, thus directly influencing and impacting the subconscious of the listeners.

Business sales stories speak directly to the part of the clients and prospects where the real decisions are made.

As a result, such stories can get people to make decisions they normally wouldn’t.

The fact is: stories sell!

But if you tell stories with the sole intent of tricking people into making decisions they normally would not, something deep down within your listeners will begin to distrust you - over time.

Manipulative storytelling tends to leave a lingering bad taste.

In recent years I have seen many business executives developing a strong resistance to such manipulative business storytelling techniques.

Now, don’t get me wrong!

I am not against storytelling.

To the contrary - I really love to hear a good story!

Storytelling is a wonderful, powerful leadership skill.

Indeed, I sense that many corporations are in dire need of an engaging, inspiring, trustworthy Chief Storyteller.

But having said that, if your only reason for telling stories is to push your products or solutions, you will find your audience wising up to your tricks very fast.

When this happens, you will see your clever plans fail quickly and miserably.

The key is to tell true stories, free from manipulative intent, focused on enabling an honest, respectful, deep dialogue.

Creating Engagement And Commitment

Throughout history, there have been people with a special gift and responsibility to uphold traditions and impart age-old wisdom to their people through stories. Fables, fairy stories, parables, metaphors and folklore all conveyed deep insights and learning to the young children – and anybody else willing to listen attentively. Some stories were based on experience, some on pure fiction, and many would seem to consist of a blend of both, resulting from conscious reflection and subconscious processing of events into a tapestry of wonderful tales and legends. In the days before Hollywood these stories would provide mental movies, filled with emotion, tragedy, victories, and happy ends.

Some would contain subtle messages, providing opportunities to gain new insights, to learn and grow.

Others would drive home their points with a sledgehammer.

But all of these stories used words to paint pictures and energize emotions as the raw material which our subconscious needs, in order to pattern, structure and design our lives. 

Why is it that most of us like a good story?

Why do children want to hear the same story over and over again, and never tire of it?

And why do they want to hear the story told in the exact same way again and again, no modifications or enhancements allowed?

Stories fuel our subconscious mind.

Mind-movies paint pictures of the world.

Storytelling helps us identify patterns and meaning in the midst of the frequently hectic, chaotic context we live in.

As far as we know, a large part of our mental processes are based on creating and recognizing patterns. Even small children feel intuitively drawn to pretty patterns, elegant designs, and well-defined structures.

Stories extract patterns out of the chaos we are surrounded with.

By listening to stories, we begin to sense that chaos itself may just be a different form of order, with a more subtle pattern to it.

Business stories help us to identify the relevant patterns in our business context. They also speak to us at a deep level of our being, involving us emotionally, thus producing a positive bonding effect.

In contrast, many high-tech PowerPoint presentations and prescriptive pep-talks tend to speak primarily to our intellect. They allow us to lean back, evaluate what is being said intellectually and analyse what effects the presenter’s talk might have on us, our business, and our personal plans – without necessarily creating any sense of true engagement.

Relevant stories respect the fact that the listener has all the resources he or she may need to solve problems. Our subconscious mind responds to the challenges, which such stories provide, by finding unique solutions that fit our personal experience and needs. Such solutions are much more likely to find our commitment and willingness to take action towards producing the desired results, as the process allows us to participate in the creation of the solution and actively design it with our unique set of resources.

Relevant business stories naturally lead in to a deep dialogue, engaging all parties involved in exploring the situation, the underlying causes and the resulting problems, various options and potential solutions, relevant scenarios and required resources, as well as possible obstacles and ways of overcoming them.

Such profound business conversations tend to result in a substantially higher degree of engagement, commitment and a willingness to take focused action.

So don’t try to trick your clients and prospects with clever business storytelling techniques.

Instead, tell your powerful business stories in order to open up a profound, respectful, two-way conversation.