The Power of Storytelling

by Patrick Lefler

The Power of StorytellingCrossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore remains one of the best sources of information on how to market and sell “disruptive products to mainstream customers.” Despite being first published almost twenty years ago, the book remains on the recommended reading list for most entrepreneurs today.

One of the best chapters of the book centers around targeting the point of attack and one of tools that Moore uses to prepare for this is to create what he calls ‘Sample Scenarios’. These target-customer scenarios are used in the decision-making process to help identify the target customer.

In the simplest terms, these scenarios focus on a before and after ‘day in the life of a customer’ and how the new product solves a given problem. Moore proposes that the results of these scenarios (quantitative information based on a number of a different factors) be used to determine the best target market segment to pursue.

I especially like the sample scenario process because it creates an inventory of real success stories than can easily be leveraged by the sales force throughout the sales process.

If you go through the discipline of accumulating these scenarios (and keeping them up-to-date), they become a powerful tool in your sales kit – ‘before and after’ success stories resonate much better than your standard PowerPoint full of facts and figures, but not much else.

Using the example of determining whether the aviation industry could be a target market for a new e-book Moore describes a ‘before and after’ scenario that could occur in an aircraft maintenance situation.

A Day in the Life (Before)

Ernie has been called in to find out why the shrevostat light on the aircraft console is blinking red. The plane is boarded and is otherwise ready to depart. As Ernie looks over the dash, he realizes that he has never actually worked on a shrevostat before.

Attempted approach:

Ernie calls down to Wally to check out the shrevostat manual. Unfortunately, the last three revisions have not been posted, so Wally has to go search them down. When he gets them, he tries to describe a diagram over the phone to Ernie, which only confuses things. So Wally gets in the truck to drive over.

Economic consequences:

Flight is canceled. Maintenance crews are taken offline to fix the problem, resulting in overtime and other delays. Money is lost…and lot’s of it!

The idea for the ‘after’ approach is to replay or imagine the same situation with a different outcome using the new technology in place – an e-book that contains all maintenance instructions.

New approach:

Ernie pulls out his e-book which contains all documentation for the Boeing 757 series, searches for shrevostat, finds the section, including the diagram, and the latest revisions, all automatically downloaded each night. There is a hyperlink in the text to a knowledge base where actual experiences are tracked. Clicking on it, the e-book connects to the base. Ernie spots the problem, applies the fix, and the plane is on its way. Operations continue as planned with no adverse consequences.

Imagine being to tell this type of powerful story to your prospects rather than bombarding them with a PowerPoint presentation that simply lists the benefits and features of your product. Your audience will remember this type of story long after they have forgotten the myriad bullet points that is usually the norm.

Here’s the takeaway: Never underestimate the power of stories. If crafted correctly, stories can be a powerful tool in your selling arsenal. Take the time to work with your sales force and then have the discipline to create these memorable success stories. The benefits will be significant.

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Patrick LeflerPatrick Lefler is the founder of The Spruance Group – a management consultancy that helps growing companies grow faster. He is a former Marine Corps officer; a graduate of both Annapolis and The Wharton School, and has over twenty years of industry expertise.

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