The revolutionary power of storytelling in business is well known, and widely documented. If emotion is one of the most powerful ways to get your prospect to move forward and make a favorable decision, then storytelling is probably the single most powerful vehicle at your disposal to convey that emotion.

Recent research has shown that its impact goes well beyond merely conveying passion and emotion – according to HBR,

“Storytelling evokes a strong neurological response. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak‘s research indicates that our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol during the tense moments in a story, which allows us to focus, while the cute factor of the animals releases oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that promotes connection and empathy. Other neurological research tells us that a happy ending to a story triggers the limbic system, our brain’s reward center, to release dopamine which makes us feel more hopeful and optimistic.“

At RAIN Group, our own research around what separates the world’s best sellers from everyone else has resulted in the discovery of the Convincing Story Framework, a 7-step process for how the very best tell stories to their clients, prospects, colleagues and peers – and inspire action in the process.

From establishing an initial connection to painting an elaborate picture of what the world could be like (and how it currently isn’t) to introducing a breakthrough “aha” moment and finally helping the client see how they too could achieve results similar to those in the story – the Convincing Story Framework is a powerful tool for influencing and driving a change in behavior within others.

A lot has been written about how to tell great stories – but what are some of the ways in which great sellers harness the power of storytelling in business ?

The Case Study.

Most firms have some well-crafted, polished case studies somewhere in their repertoire – often in well-designed, beautiful looking documents ready to send at the click of a mouse.

Yet, most of those case studies fall short of their intended result: to help potential clients see how similar results could be achieved for them, and help them overcome inertia and move into action.

In my opinion, a far better way of relating a case study is through the power of story. Positioning your past clients as “the hero” adds an emotional dimension to the story, especially if you were personally involved in creating the result that was achieved. Furthermore, the case study is a story is a great way to illustrate how you truly put your client’s success first – rather than a piece of marketing speak about how customer centricity is one of your firm’s core values.

The Story Of Origin.

Many organizations are famous for how they got started – whether it’s a start up in the proverbial garage, a visionary scientist somewhere in a lab or a savvy entrepreneur stumbling upon something that was so wrong it simply had to be put right.

What many organizations fail to see, however, is that their very story of origin is a powerful vehicle for demonstrating credibility, establishing a track record and differentiating themselves from their competitors. In other words, telling that story is a great way to answer the question “why would I work with you ?”.

The Story Of You.

In the end, in order to feel comfortable working with you, prospects need to be believe in four key things: your organization, your products or services, your proposed outcome and you.

Every seller should have at least a few stories about themselves that illustrate key aspects of what they are trying to convey terms of the value they can deliver: whether it’s their focus on their client success, their ability to generate results, their business experience or simply their past performance in sales.

Rather than simply conveying those points, stories enable you to do so in a way that evokes emotion, as well as reduces the danger of your prospect seeing you as yet another chest-pounding salesperson full of themselves.

The Business Case.

Most business cases and ROI calculators are 100% right brain: a series of simple numbers on a spreadsheet that is assumed to somehow inspire a buyer into seeing how buying from you is really a no-brainer.

The opposite is often true: most buyers see seller ROI calculators and business cases as highly suspect, and most likely “too good to be true”.

When we have experimented with presenting a business case as a story, where we present past client’s results, gather the prospect’s input and build it together, the results have been nothing short of revolutionary. Call it a double whammy: the business case as a story not only gets the point across, but does so in a way that inspires emotion and action.

The Underdog Story.

In this short lineup, I have saved the best for last: the story of the underdog who, against all odds, overcame the challenges he or she was presented with and achieved massive success in the end.

Think about any Hollywood blockbuster. Most bestsellers ever written. Virtually every successful magazine article. All “most shared” blogposts. What do they all have in common ?

The story of the underdog.

People love hearing stories about how you, your company or your service were able to beat the odds and generate massive success. It’s a basic appeal to our human emotions, and probably quite literally the foundation of “the oldest story on Earth”. No one’s perfect – but those who overcome their imperfections and succeed come close.

In addition to the short list above, there are probably many other ways in which you could use storytelling in business, or have done so successfully in the past. So do me a favor: if you have a great story to tell about how you use stories to win over reluctant prospects, secure a deal against all odds or simply inspired someone to take action – leave a comment below.