Series 6 – The Rise of Narrative Story Telling for Enhancing Sales Human Performance
In this eBook, we will examine Narrative Story Telling for Enhancing the Human Performance of Sales Professionals. The content has been organized into four sections:
- Section 1.0 – The Roots of Story Telling: explores the ancient roots of story telling, and discusses the significance of stories in developing a quality culture, where best practices are the norm.
- Section 2.0 – examines the changing landscape of B2B sales professionals where customer intelligence is surpassing the performance levels of sales professionals, and discusses the value of narrative story telling to accelerate sales performance.
- Section 3.0 – further discusses the attributes of story telling and provides examples of predictive narrative story telling for sales professionals.
- Section 4.0 – provides an impactful conclusion, pulling the key themes together explored in Sections 1.0 – 3.0.
1.0 – The Roots of Story Telling
Story telling is an ancient and intimate tradition between the storyteller and his or her audience. In ancient times, rituals were in close proximity where the telling of the story took on an intimacy, developing a connection to both the storyteller and the listener through their intimate and closely connected communal experience. This intimate connection established was flexible by design, where the story content flowed dynamically with the listener’s level of engagement and reactions to the urgency of a creative process taking place in their presence.
Before man learned to write, he had to rely on his memory to learn anything. For this, he had to be a good listener. A good storyteller was always respected. He could easily find an audience keen to listen to every nuance in the stories being shared. These stories were also shared when people traveled. And when they returned home, they brought with them exciting new tales of exotic places and people, and further extended the stories and rituals or folklore for generations.
The history of storytelling reveals that stories came in all varieties. Myths, legends of all kinds, fairy tales, trickster stories, fables, ghost tales, hero stories, and epic adventures, these stories were told, and retold. Passing down from generations, these stories reflected the wisdom and knowledge of early civilizations. There are stories often used to explain important, but often confusing events and disasters in nature. For example – fire, storms, thunder, floods, tidal waves, lightening etc., it was common for people to believe in the stories of gods, which bound them to a common heritage and set of beliefs.
Examples of early stories include the cultural narrative fable, which serves to teach a lesson about proper behavior. For example, in “The Tortoise and the Hare” from “Aesop’s Fables,” the slow but determined tortoise wins a race against the fast and arrogant hare. The moral of the story is that raw talent is not enough to succeed and that someone who is persevering can win against a stronger opponent. These cultural narratives tell children what the community values, such as determination, while also defining taboos and vices, such as arrogance.
Today, stories are an intrinsic part of our societies and culture. Stories underpin our culture and through them, we can see our values, desires, prejudices, dreams, and all aspects of our life. In fact, it is believed by most historians and psychologists that storytelling is one of the many things that binds and defines our humanity. Humans are the only animals that create and tell stories.
2.0 – Value of Stories in defining Culture
Cultural narratives are stories that help a community structure and assign meaning to its history and existence. Cultural narratives include creation stories, which tell a story about the community’s origins, and fables, which help teach moral values and ethical behavior. Cultural narratives help a community reinforce societal norms, preserve its history and strengthen its identity through shared knowledge and experience.
Stories are one of the most powerful emotional currencies that we as humans possess. Stories have been a fundamental and influential part of the human experience since we developed language. Stories move people to feel, and they can also move people to act.
At work, stories take the form of narratives, conversations and anecdotes that connect us with the narrator and the subjects and broaden our pool of knowledge.
“When you share a story, you will spark a story,” says consultant Thaler Pekar[i], “That is the power of story: it is an emergent form of communication, possessing the ability to tap into the experiences of your listener. You can connect seemingly abstract, new information to your listener’s existing web of knowledge.”
According to expert David Snowden, academics have two definitions of what a story is:
- The Story Feature: which requires any story to communicate some form of causal resolution of a problem, and
- The Structural-Affect: which requires the addition of meaning and significance for the audiences.
3.0 – The Power of Story Telling increases Cultural Engagement
Stories motivate and increase human performance levels. Great recognition uses storytelling in both of these ways. Consider this example of an effective message of recognition:
Kevin, thank you for working late yesterday to put together a powerful slide presentation for our customer presentation. I really appreciate the effort you invested jam packing the presenting with impressive statistics based on a clear understanding of their business model. Because of your efforts and comprehensive data analysis, our meeting was very successful. In addition, our customer was very impressed with your understanding of their business. Thank-you for your dedication and commitment to excellence.
This message tells a clear story. Kevin is the central character, supported by the giver of recognition and the customer. We can see Kevin in our minds’ eye working late and we have a visual sense of the satisfied customers in the meeting. The message recounts exactly what Kevin did to meet the challenge and achieve success and explains exactly what the significance of that success is. The moral of the story is that through focused hard work and detailed analysis relevant to a customer, can lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction, business success and personal growth.
Best practices are a very strong strategy to develop positive cultural norms and provide learning feedback loops that are more agile to embrace change. Using stories as a means to communicate narrative and integrating social recognition with specific examples are powerful strategies to apply throughout an organization focused on quality and excellence in every human interaction.
By practicing organic and non-intrusive means of story telling practices, an organization will develop more powerful means of producing sustainable cultural change. Harnessing the power of story telling can shape and develop an organizational culture, convey brands and transfer values, and strengthen tacit knowledge.
Stories are also effective strategies to make sense of our complex world, our environment. They provide a shared context for mutual understanding of events and issues that impact us. And they can further inspire us to change our point of view. David Bjoe, stories, he says, “are a part of an organization-wide information-processing network. Bits and pieces of organization experience are recounted socially throughout the firm to formulate … collective accounts that will serve as precedent for individual assumption, decision, and action. This is the institutional memory system of the organization.” “Storytelling, suggests Boje, “can also be a useful tool for managers trying to cope with rapid change. Training managers to be effective storytellers can help them to be more effective in enabling transformational organizational changes.”
4.0 – Tips to apply Story Telling in your organization:
- Make recognition social in your organization– If others cannot see and share in the story, it cannot help to change or influence your culture at large. Make sure you are publishing recognition into your companies’ internal communication platforms, or social feeds, spreading the positive vibes creates energy surges.
- Make sure your messages include stories – Take quality time to create your recognition moments so they are not simple platitudes i.e.: “Thank you for all you do” is not recognition. When you thank your employees or colleagues, tell a story to be more specific, include a short narrative of just what they did and explain why it made a difference, share the story so others can relive this success and help others to learn to emulate and apply the best practices shared.
- Make sure your messages have a “moral to the story” – Capture both aspects of storytelling by describing not only what happened that was worthy of recognition, but also describe the big picture, why it was important, and how this made a difference. Describe in detail what were the results? How do these results further more connect to your organizational goals and values? As you role model your stories, others will notice and your culture over time, will be rooted in the “art of story telling and sharing best practices.”
- Tap into your organizational memory – Make sure that when you are doing reflective recognition such as years of service awards, that stories are adequately captured and presented. Spend the time digging into source memorable moments of history that ignite wisdom and create foundations for others to learn form. Often a new manager won’t know the stories that make a milestone so poignant, but peers and other leaders have a rich store of anecdotes and memories to make the recognition moment deeply authentic and meaningful.
When used correctly, stories can be a powerful tool for managing culture and increasing the active engagement and commitment of your employees.
The next section in our blog series, published next week, will introduce how narrative story telling can enhance sales professional’s performance levels, in particular, leveraging advanced data sciences, with predictive analytics. A summary of the shifting customer purchasing dynamics impacting sales professionals will also be discussed, impacting cost of sales and straining sales organization’s capabilities to perform at the higher levels of customer demands.
David Bjoe. Perspectives on impact of stories creating culture. (Source : http://www.jstor.org/stable/2393432?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents)
Thomas Davenport, Expert on Analytics and Big Data. (Source: http://www.tomdavenport.com/about/)
LeAnna Kent. Data StoryTelling: Bringing Life to your Data (Source: http://www.predictiveanalyticsworld.com/patimes/data-story-telling-bringing-life-data/8278/).
Thaler Pecker. A Storyteller expert-discussing story attributes, (Source: http://thalerpekar.com/sharing/).
David Snowden, Expert in Cognitive Sciences and StoryTelling. (Source: http://cognitive-edge.com/).
Berkeley Warburton, The Age of Distraction: Accenture White Paper, Fall 2016. (Source: https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insight-selling-high-tech-age-distraction)