June 10, 2020

Storytelling: Methods for Presentations, Marketing and Sales

To sell successfully, you need to be a good storyteller.

The art of storytelling, i.e. telling a story about a product, is actually one of the most powerful sales strategies. It’ s much more convincing when you tell your listener how you helped someone else with similar challenges, rather than just saying you can help.

Effective storytelling puts an idea in the other person’s head that may ultimately change their mind, or at least make them consider new opportunities.

This is how it works:

The storytelling method:

When listening to a story, the brain engages in four different ways:

  1. Dopamine:

The brain releases this neurotransmitter after experiencing an emotional event. This makes it easier to remember important facts with greater accuracy.

  1. Neural coupling:

A story activates parts of the brain that allow the listener to transform the story into their own ideas and experiences.

  1. Synchronization:

The brain activity of listeners and storytellers actually sync up.

  1. Activating the cortex:

When processing facts, two areas of the brain are activated (Broca’s and Wernicke’s area). A good story can activate other areas as well, such as the sensory, frontal and motor cortex.


The storytelling process:

Storytelling doesn’t need a complex film plot (Pixar has 12 acts), but it does require a beginning, middle and end. Below are the individual stages of the storytelling process. As in life, the motto in sales is less is more. Avoid complex issues and try to condense the most important elements of your story into as few words as possible. Try to use a maximum of 1-2 sentences for each part.


Part 1: The beginning. Make it personal

The purpose of the opening is to create a context that helps your client establish a personal connection with the protagonist of your story. They should be able to identify with that character. When you tell stories about other clients to a potential client, don’t just mention the company name, e.g. Microsoft. Describe someone similar to the person you are talking to, including a name, title, and other relevant details. It could be someone from a similar industry (retail, security), from a company of the same size (companies with 500, 5,000 and 50,000 employees have significantly different challenges), or from a similar location (international vs. 1 office headquarters).

Be careful not to turn your story into gossip – don’t include enough personal details to allow your audience to google the person – but don’t make it so general that it sounds like you’re making up random information.

Part 2: The middle. Describe conflicts and negative impacts

Take your customer on a roller coaster ride before you describe the positive result. Describe the challenges and their negative impact that the people in your story have faced. All too often we don’t build enough drama between the pain and the solution because we don’t want anyone to feel bad.

This shortcut leads to a mediocre story. Instead, paint a picture of the struggles and adverse effects that the company would face if they are unable to resolve these challenges.


Part 3: The end. The solution and positive effects

Your customer is the hero in your story, not your company. The ending must leave the impression that your company helped the client, just like Yoda helped Luke Skywalker or Dumbledore helped Harry Potter. Describe how said client has thrived after solving this problem.

When you say, “After receiving support from our company…” your story feels like a sales pitch. Instead, talk about the type of solution you helped create. This will build curiosity and neural coupling to the potential client’s own experience.

When done correctly, your listener will ask you: “That’s exactly what I’m looking for. How was it done?” The answer is of course, your solution.


Bonus: Referencing third parties

Using case studies can drastically help you in storytelling by removing yourself as the main character from the story. If a direct pitch is rejected, the conversation can end all too quickly.

If, on the other hand, you reference a third party, you are speaking through the person who experienced the problem, their problem (in context), and how it has impacted that person. So, if your story just isn’t relevant, it’s the person in your story who is rejected, not you!


Conclusion: Storytelling works for marketing and sales

Successful storytelling can be learned and practiced. What makes storytelling so successful is that it can inspire the client.

Mere facts just aren’t enough – emotions have to be stirred. Great stories help the listener connect and remember details more accurately. This is essential when selling a product. Connecting the product with positive emotions significantly increases the chances of selling it.

A story is much easier to remember. Nobody tells friends or colleagues about impressive facts and figures, but a story is something people share. This gives you the chance to not only convince your listener, but to win new customers as well.

Storytelling is much more than just the latest marketing trend; it offers the opportunity to stand out from the competition and build customer loyalty.

Some more storytelling tips:


  1. Reason for the story

You have to be clear about the message the story should convey and what you want to give the client. Unnecessary details distract from the core of the story and can cause your listener to lose attention. What’s the motivation behind the story? Do you want to promote a new product, increase sales figures or perhaps develop a new target group? You can only write a story around a clear concept.

  1. Know your target group

Know your listener. Different emotions may need to be addressed depending on age, gender, job description, etc. What topics are your listeners interested in, what kind of lifestyle do they have? An example: Let’s say the product the story is based on is a stair lift. A product that is obviously more relevant for the older generation. To reach a younger target group, you need to adapt, perhaps with an emotional story about parents or grandparents. It’s important to adapt your storytelling to your target audience to achieve the maximum effect.

Also think carefully about how you want to address your target audience. This could be a TV spot, a personal interview or an article in a magazine, for example.

  1. Authenticity

Keep your story as close to real events as possible. Design the storytelling so that the values and achievements of your company are reflected in it. Every company, brand and product has its own story, and the closer you stay to the truth, the easier it is to tell. You can prepare for potential client demands. Made-up stories without a true core quickly reveal themselves through their unrealistic content and are perceived as untrustworthy by the client. At this point you may as well end the conversation. Because once you’ve lost your credibility, you’ve also lost your ability to sell the product.

Here is one the most successful examples of storytelling that follows the structure mentioned above: 

Red Bull

Red Bull has mastered the art of storytelling like no other brand. The name is automatically associated with exciting extreme sports, new world records and adrenaline. World Record Freefall is the name of the video in which Felix Baumgartner freefalls towards the earth. In just under 4.5 minutes, the viewer experiences a roller coaster of emotions, starting with the nightly transport of the equipment, through complications that threaten the entire project, to the unique moment when the extreme athlete lands safely on earth. Although the product and the brand take a back seat, they are inevitably associated with triumph and pride. And this is exactly what successful storytelling is all about.


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