Posted by: drewdice | March 24, 2011

Story Time

Recently, JoAnn was telling me how Mary (a good friend who also does JoAnn’s nails – and is fabulous – she works at About Faces, by the way) shared a story that one of Mary’s other clients remarked that she wondered why JoAnn “didn’t like her”.

This was a bit confusing to JoAnn, since she and this other woman have hardly ever interacted, and, it had been years since they were even exposed to each other. JoAnn and I began talking about the phenomenon of human perception and story creation. Absent of factual information, we are fabulous at taking our perceptions and spinning them into a version of reality. As you read this, you can probably think of at least a handful of times where this has occurred for you and ‘to’ you.

You know me – of course I started applying this to business, and immediately, I thought of a recent interaction a sales person I know had with a prospective customer within a strategic, targeted account of his.

The sales professional secured a meeting with a woman who ran a leadership development program for a global firm – this program was started by the CEO – and so it had definite legs and importance in the organization with regards to building competencies for the future leaders of the organization. Following the meeting, the sales person heard an expressed need – and after caucusing internally to learn about his firms experience (or lack thereof) in doing what he heard expressed by the client – felt that there may not be a direct match enough to build credibility. There was some follow up by the sales person in securing a follow up discussion with the prospect – but that didn’t materialize.

Approximately 45 days later, another team member of that sales professional reached back to the prospect, and upon receiving the call, the prospect remarked “I am glad you called; I was hoping to hear back from your firm. Nobody ever followed up, so I didn’t think you all were interested in working with me on my challenges”. WHOA!! While you may be experiencing a variety of thoughts and feelings about that comment, in my opinion, that was great information to hear. We’ve got a prospect here who really wants and needs help, and has opened up (twice) about her pains – there was a second chance for this company to make an impact within the strategic account.

What does this have to do with stories? It goes like this –

– Stories have immense power – to convey thoughts, and feelings; to create images and perceptions; to influence; to build credibility; also, to shatter confidence, weaken resolve, and disempower. What is the difference in the outcome of a story? An individual’s choice and what she brings to the story. It is that simple. Take the story above:

– Sales professional 1, created a story that his firm did not have the exact experience he thought the prospect needed to solve her challenge, and his confidence and self-perceived credibility was low – thus creating low levels of engagement with the prospect. As a result, he withdrew from the prospect, and the prospect was left thinking the firm did not want to engage with her. This could have had significant adverse impact on the overall relationship.

– Sales professional 2 created a different story, which was that his firm had a wealth of knowledge and expertise, and, with some more information from the prospect, he was confident that they could bring value to the prospect’s situation, regardless of whether his firm had done that exact “thing” before.

The difference between the two approaches was a matter of the sales professional’s mindset. Period.

So, I ask you to consider what stories you tell yourself each day – when prospects don’t call you back or answer your emails; when you lose a key pursuit; when the level of engagement with your spouse, friends or family members seems a bit different. You do have the power to choose your stories, and with those choices, you also have the ability to change the outcomes you currently produce.

The choice is yours. What’s your story?

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