The first day of my life was the day the boy I had crushed on for 3 straight months out of my short six years on earth smiled at me. I remember all about his smile. His two front teeth were missing, but it didn’t matter; I had gone to cloud nine on my little pink shoes. I told all my little girlfriends and I could see they were jealous. His little-boy hands had not reached out for a handshake, neither did he say hello, but his smile was all a little girl could ask for in the world.

The next day was Friday. I could not wait to get to school. My mom was a bit suspicious when I finished my breakfast without a fuss, yanked my schoolbag off the stand and dashed for school. Then fate did its magic; I met my crush at the school gate and just as I was about to pass him…

Every business has a story. The more attentive you are to your business environment, the more stories you are compelled to create and share. As unmoving as this statement might seem, you probably read till this point because of the story in the first two paragraphs. What if I told you it was completely fictional? This won’t change the fact that it held your attention, would it? This is the first thing stories do, they hold your audience captive. For thousands of years, humans have emotionally connected to each other through stories; it is a primary part of our existence. Unfortunately, many business owners are yet to realize and leverage this “almighty power” in driving their businesses towards the success they seek.

There are deep neurological reasons behind the power of storytelling. Stories hold you bound because of something called ‘emotional investment’. I first heard this from David JP Phillips’ TEDx talk on The Magical Science of Storytelling, which I am going to be use as resource for this discourse. He shared that the more emotionally invested you are to anything in your life, the less critical, the less objectively observant you become.

Stories hijack your mind and transmit hormones like endorphins, dopamines, oxytocin, and adrenalin. We build dopamine levels through suspense and cliffhangers, and all good stories are dopamine inducing. Oxytocin is the hormone that is transmitted when we feel empathy. In storytelling, we create content that evoke empathy so our audience can bond or connect with us and the products or services we are promoting. Endorphin is that hormone released when there is humor. In every other story, give your target audience something to laugh over, or simpler, smile about. Some stories, however, turn the audience away because the content makes the listener or reader irritable, uncreative, unfocused – these are the reactions you get when your audience feeds off your content when you communicate poorly, especially where good storytelling is lacking.

So, why should you apply storytelling to your sales strategy?

  1. Fosters Bond with Customers

Stories, especially those that transmit happiness (endorphin hormone) and trust (oxytocin hormone), will endear your customers to you. The honest vulnerability of stories that reveal our humanity and humaneness pulls even the coldest of hearts to our side. A customer feels that you have drawn them into your confidence and they are compelled to share in your story because they believe, as you want them to, that they are part of your journey.

Riveting stories could hold your audience spellbound. But beyond that, the aim is to win them over, to convince them your brand is just what they need. Stories are a marvelous connector; their efficacy is a proven science almost as old as man.

  • Guarantees Customer Loyalty

Sharing your story as a brand means you are sharing your experiences. They could be veiled or glaring demonstrations or narrations of your victories, forward failures, testimonials and so on, but what they do is say to your audience: we are here, have been doing this and enjoy doing it, with proven results.

It’s really simple: a customer is more likely to follow a brand that churns out content that throws light on their existence than a brand that doesn’t. This goes a long way in authenticating your brand. VirtualSpeech says “Storytelling conveys purpose, and businesses with purpose are noticed and win the loyalty of consumers”. As discussed earlier, stories give your brand a human touch because it satisfies an innate human desire, at the same time it gives off a sense of genuineness around your brand and this translates to credibility which garners loyalty from the customer. There is almost an unrivalled presence a brand that regularly creates quality stories builds in the minds of their customers. Do you remember MTN’s ‘Oh Jerry’ ad? Although it has been about 2 decades, all of us who saw it can not only recall it, we vividly remember the emotions it induced.

  • Edges Out Competition

Your story is yours. As generic as it might appear sometimes, it is unique to you, and when told rightly, it gives your brand an edge over competition. Customers have the tendency to make purchase decisions based on emotions over logic. This brings to fore the power of stories, because they help establish an emotional connection which could then convert to sales.

Liz Wendling, author of The Heart of Authentic Selling, in an article says, “Emotions are at the heart of every sale… Regardless of what you sell—whether it is products, services or advice—people buy based on feelings… Never underestimate the importance and power of emotions in selling—feelings are the fuel that drives people to buy.”

  • Boosts Employee Engagement

Employees are the heart of every business. They reflect the culture, the standards of that business. Many employees could easily feel detached from their companies because they do not know how the experiences of the company relate to them. However, storytelling has the ability to change that. Employers can use it to bridge the relational gap between them and their employees. There are multiple ripple effects, one of which is as highlighted with the point on fostering customer loyalty. The same applies with employees.

I can’t overemphasize this: storytelling is a powerful tool to establish emotional connection, and positive emotional connections promise loyalty. Employee loyalty is a value that every employer craves. The Oxford Group submits, “Telling authentic and personal stories about your organisation is one of the most powerful tools you as a leader can use to drive and sustain employee engagement. This is because stories about your organisation help meet the emotional needs people have at work – to be secure, to belong, to be part of something meaningful, worthwhile and successful – in a way that facts, figures and logic never can.”

Furthermore, seeing that the world of work in recent times has had to embrace remote work, storytelling strengthens the relationship between the employee and the company. As Engage for Success shares, “You can use storytelling to overcome the physical distance and build trust and connection with remote workers. Well-told stories can help remote workers see your company in a different light and cherish the work they do for your brand.”

Finally and most importantly for businesses,

  • Stories Widen Your Profit Margin by Boosting Your Sales

There’s the incredible story of researchers Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn, how they showed the influence of storytelling by auctioning off insignificant objects on eBay with earnest and purposeful short stories attached to each item. The items were purchased for a few dollars shy of $200 and sold for nearly $8,000 cumulatively. This shows how a functional storytelling technique can increase the supposed value of a product and generate ROI.

As David shared, functional storytelling develops from three things: knowing everybody is a good storyteller, writing down your stories, and indexing your stories – know which stories release what hormones.

In conclusion, know your audience, then tell stories that fit their lives. Remember, everyone loves a good story!

If you need our help to tell your business stories for results, either to teach you how or to strategize and develop with/for you, email us now: hello@sageworks.ng. We’ll be happy to support you.