How to 'StorySell' Your Way to a Sale

Everyone loves a good story. Find out how to improve your storytelling skills to increase your sales to the affluent.

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By Dan S. Kennedy


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The following excerpt is from Dan S. Kennedy's book No B.S. Marketing to the Affluent. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

StorySelling is an incredibly high-powered tool when it comes to marketing to the affluent. The concept of StorySelling boils down to this: People love a great story. And when you tell the right story about yourself and your business, you create the foundation for a marketing powerhouse or, in story terms, a blockbuster that's vitally important when it comes to marketing to the affluent ... and here's why.

Everyone who's affluent has one big thing in common, besides disposable income—that's the fact that almost everybody else knows they're affluent. They live in the kind of ZIP codes that marketers lust after because those ZIP codes contain lots of high-income residents. The affluent also end up on every marketing list of companies that sell high-ticket items, simply because of their buying patterns. And it's not just businesses that market to the affluent—you can be sure their less-than-affluent friends and family members regularly hit them up for money, too!

Which brings us to this big point. Whichever type of affluent consumers you want to try to sell to, the common thread among them all is that someone is always trying to get money out of them. Everyone from the biggest corporations in the world down to ne'er-do-well nieces and nephews want the well-off to fatten their wallets. After all, if they have disposable income, why not dispose of it with them?

The outcome of all this constant asking for money? The affluent's resistance ratchets up—and any request for money, even in exchange for services or products, is met with skepticism, if not outright hostility. They build up a strong psychic "sales wall" that easily repels most hard sell pitches; the only pitches that get over that wall are from companies or people they're already familiar with and are already sold on.

That familiarity is what StorySelling brings to the table. With it, you can actually burrow under that sales wall and create the bond you desire with a potential affluent customer or client—without them even realizing you're doing it.

To understand why that bond becomes so strong, you must understand the power of stories themselves.

Our love affair with stories

The fact is, the human brain enjoys nothing more than a good story. That's why stories have dominated our culture throughout the existence of our species—and why we've used whatever medium we had at hand to tell them, from cave drawings in prehistoric times to YouTube videos in the 21st century. That's because we don't just like stories—we love them.

Researchers at the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California, discovered that the right kind of stories activate the oxytocin hormone in our brains—this is actually called "the love hormone" by the scientific community because it's associated with romantic attachment, human bonding, and sex.

Why do stories trigger an increase in oxytocin? Other research suggests that it happens because we identify with whoever the story is about—and put ourselves in their shoes. After all, we're all people—and we all experience the same fears, desires, joys, and ambitions.

Simply put, strong stories key into our emotions in a deep and profound way; we identify with them in a way we don't identify with raw data or, for that matter, a hard sell.

Here's a good example of how StorySelling™ trumps traditional selling. Remember the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza buys an old clunker—but he's very excited about it because it once belonged to the actor Jon Voight? Well, George obviously didn't care about the mileage on the used car or the features or what shape the tires were in—all the things he should have been concerned about. He simply bought the car because the most important thing for him was that he would be driving the same car that an Academy Award-winning actor once owned. He wanted to be a part of Jon Voight's story—even if it only involved Voight's old broken-down car.

The four key factors of StorySelling™

The best StorySelling™ narratives share four key factors that lead to their success with the affluent.

Key Factor #1: Simplicity. How many stories do we hear in a day? How much information do we end up taking in? The answer to both of those questions is the same: a scary crazy amount. That means if your story isn't simple and easy to grasp, most of us, unless we're already intensely interested in the story, aren't going to hang on to it. Our lives are too busy and our minds too cluttered to take in something that's not directly relevant to what we're dealing with at the moment. The affluent are no different. If anything, if they're not retired, they're most likely busier than most of us. The simplicity of a StorySelling™ narrative, then, becomes of paramount importance when marketing to them.

Key Factor #2: Authenticity. As noted, the affluent are bombarded with marketing efforts night and day—and most of them can smell a sales pitch a mile off. If your story only seems like an effort to get them to buy—or, even worse, if it doesn't have the ring of truth—they're not going to take it seriously (the only exception is if they've already heavily bought into your StorySelling™ and will accept a sales pitch from you based on established trust).

Key Factor #3: Visibility. The affluent will also more willingly trust someone they've heard of, someone they like, and someone who's displayed an impressive expertise that ties in with whatever they're selling. For instance, a tax lawyer who's written a book on winning business tax strategies will be more trusted than a tax lawyer who may have just as much knowledge and skill but hasn't taken the time to display it in a public arena. Because that lawyer made himself visible in the right venue, his StorySelling™ is effective.

Key Factor #4: Relevancy. Finally, your story has to be one that the affluent will want to hear because it's somehow important to their lives. To go back to our tax lawyer example, if this particular attorney does write a book specifically targeted to the well-to-do to help them legally lower their tax liability, those people will want to read it because it's going to save them money. And, as a result, they're more likely to hire that particular tax lawyer.

Affluent people also covet status and prestige, so if your StorySelling™ makes it clear that you can deliver those qualities to their lives, they'll be excited to hear it.

Dan S. Kennedy

Author, Strategic Advisor, Consultant, and Business Coach

DAN S. KENNEDY is a strategic advisor, consultant, business coach, and author of the popular No B.S. book series. He directly influences more than one million business owners annually. 

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