Storytelling has long been a foundation of the art of persuasion. Why? Because it is one of the oldest, most effective forms of human communication.
In a previous post, I introduced the concept of “situational persuasion success stories” — prepared retellings of how you previously helped improve somebody’s condition in given situations. Click here for a primer on those kind of stories.
Now, I’m going to present five key elements — along with examples — of all effective situational persuasion success stories:
1. The story should have a point
Whether it’s how a colleague overcame professional limitations and rose to the executive level or how a client decided to take a risk despite the economy’s ambiguities, you tell situational persuasion success stories to fit a particular set of circumstances. That’s the point, and your stories should have one, too.
Example: A former colleague used to ask so many questions that we jokingly referred to him as “the reporter.” He took all the answers he received from people — his cubicle neighbors, co-workers in other departments, his boss, the custodian — and came up with new and more effective ways to do things. His co-workers initially thought he was just a pest, but they soon came to rely on him as their go-to guy whenever they had a problem at the office. His credibility soared. The lesson I took away from that? Sometimes it pays to ask questions.
2. The story should contain telling, vivid details
Describe the type and time of day, maybe the main character’s fashion sense and one flattering physical trait. Recount the way in which that person considered an idea, and then relate a contrasting detail or complicating factor.
Example: She was the quintessential corporate executive: well-dressed, articulate, comporting herself as if about to call to order a board of directors meeting. And she was eyeing up a radical custom-painted, candy-apple-red Harley-Davidson Super Glide with one of the most sinister skull paint jobs I’ve ever seen.
3. Beginnings are crucial
Don’t open your situational persuasion success story with a cliché. Instead, develop creative ways of getting started. If your prospective buyer says this:We just don’t know what’s going to happen with our industry and the economy,you might begin your situational persuasion success story like this: That’s exactly what Steve Buyer said, not more than two months ago.