The Secret of Bestselling Stories – We have all the experience of getting hooked by an interesting book. We keep turning page after page without noticing the passage of time, and when we finally look up, it is already a great deal of time. Is it possible to learn writing an enthralling story like such?
Believe it or not, telling a story is the most powerful weapon that a salesman can have, and it is so useful that it can be applied in many situations. For example, when a job interviewer tells you to “give me an example of working under time pressure”, you have to tell a story; when a prospect asks you to “tell me how your product can help me”, you can tell a story; and when you have to write an article to promote your company, it’ll be useful to tell a story too.
However, most people often end up boring their listeners when they tell a story, because they don’t know how to do it properly. So, how can you tell an interesting story to successfully sell what you want to sell, without sounding awkward or boring to the listeners? Let’s consider the following example.
Jenny was a salesperson in a multinational company. She was the bottom performer of her team, as she didn’t have the look or skills that make a top saleswoman. No one ever saw her smile in the office, or talked to her either, because no one liked to talk to a loser. Many believed that she was going to leave the company soon.
One day, Jenny’s team was about to have their weekly sales meeting as usual. Everyone was chatting with each other and talking about how they were doing – except Jenny. She was just sitting alone by herself, and kept looking down at her mini tablet. It looked like that she was reading a book or something.
“Jenny didn’t seem to care. Perhaps she had already given up.” That was what everybody thought.
Then the sales meeting began. The manager asked the team how they were doing, and they reported their progresses. After asking everyone, the manager finally turned to Jenny. Since Jenny had always been doing poorly, the manager simply expected nothing from her, but for the sake of formality, he still asked Jenny how much she could contribute that month.
To everyone’s surprise, Jenny mentioned that she was about to bring in a new client, and the deal was so large that it eclipsed the team target. When she said that, the whole room suddenly went silent. The manager looked at her without saying a word, and all the people in the team also stared at her with mouths wide open. Apparently, no one could really believe what Jenny just said.
And she did close the deal for the team. Nevertheless, everyone believed that she was just lucky this time, so no one asked her how she did that. Jenny didn’t endeavor to explain, either. Every day, instead of talking to people, she just kept staring at her own tablet, as if she was studying something very important.
For the next few weeks, nothing seemed to have changed in the team – except one thing. Jenny now closed more deals than anyone else in the team. Her income tripled in just a month. Even though no one really knew why and how she changed so suddenly, they suspected that it might have something to do with the material she was reading in her tablet all the time.
Therefore, people started to hang around her, and asked her what she was reading all day long. She said that it was a book on sales techniques, and admitted that it helped her a lot. However, whenever she was asked which book it was, she just gave a different answer every time, and none of which was the one she was actually reading. People got more and more curious about the book.
At the same time, it happened that Jenny had a teammate called Nancy. Nancy was also a bottom performer like Jenny used to be, so when she saw Jenny improved so suddenly, she was determined to know which book Jenny was reading all the time. Therefore, one day, when Jenny forgot her tablet on her desk, Nancy stole it and copied down the name of the book, and later bought it from an online bookstore herself.
Since that day, Nancy ploughed through the book whenever she had time, just like what Jenny had been doing in the office. Strangely enough, just after a month, Nancy beat Jenny to become the sales champion of the month. However, to the surprise of everyone, Nancy soon announced that she would quite the job.
When her manager asked her why she quit, she said:
“My last client runs a famous local company. He likes the way that I sell to people, so he offers to double my salary to get me working for him. For the record, I also want to let you know that I will bring Jenny with me too. Both of us have had enough getting pissed here when we were at the bottom. We decided that we both want to work for a better company. This is also to thank her for introducing me to a book which is responsible for my dramatic improvement.”
This is where I usually finish the story. At this point, there are often two kinds of reactions. The first kind is to eagerly request the name of the book, as they also want to improve their performance at work; the second kind is to dismiss the story as a fable, and challenges me to show them the book if it is really so powerful.
Whether you believe it or not, you have already fallen into my trap. Actually, the book in the story is written by me, and the whole point of telling you the story is to arouse your interest, and make you ask me about it.
The above story is actually an over-dramatization of a testimonial of a reader of my previous book, the Art of Influencing Anyone. In the real version, the reader said that he learned a lot from my book, and it helped him to increase his income. He read it in his workplace every day, and one of his colleagues got curious and stole his book to have a look. However, the book’s effect was not as dramatic as exaggerated above: it only helped him to increase his sales by about 20% on average.
Regardless where the story came from, the story has served its purpose: making me able to introduce and sell my own book to you, in a way that you won’t find it hard-selling. Most people are often hooked from the beginning, and cannot wait to ask for the name of the book when I finish. So, how can you do the same to sell your products to your customers? You’ll have to do the following three things when you tell your story:
1. Brings out the difficulty as soon as possible
A good story often beings when the character is in a poor situation, and he has to work his way out of it. Look at the first paragraph of the story again. I never said “Jenny was a bad salesperson” or “She doesn’t like her job”, but I gave you a description how she was treated at work, and it lets you know that she was very unpleasant at work. It elicits sympathy from the readers, and forces to character to do something about it.
2. Never close the loop until the end
The movement of a story is based on the development of tension and mystery, and once it is developed, never close it too soon. In the beginning of the story, you know that Jenny was reading a strange book. Then, you learn that it improved her sales dramatically. Later, you see that another person read the book, and also got the same result. It makes you curious which book it was, but I keep this information away from you even after the story is finished. As a result, the first thing you want to know from me is the name of the book.
3. Twist the Ending
A very important characteristic of a good story is a surprising ending. Simply put, a surprising ending is reached when the final phase of the story completely alters the course of preceding events, especially when there seems to be no alternative. In the above story, we have been talking about how powerful Jenny and Nancy had become after reading the book, but as soon as they became the best, they suddenly wanted to quit. It completely overthrows the preceding setting, and makes you wonder what was going on?
These three things may sound a bit complicated at first, but they are actually very easy to master. If you can incorporate them into your stories, you will soon be able to find their persuasive power very useful.
To find out more tricks on how to persuade and influence people, please get a copy of my book, the Art of Influencing Anyone.