As AEC Marketers, we are in the business of persuasion. Aristotle, the father of persuasion, defined it is a combination of logic (logos), emotion (pathos) and credibility (ethos). Our industry is really good at two out of three of these tactics: logic and credibility. But 67% would earn us a “D” if enrolled in Persuasion class. We must connect emotionally to be fully effective. Story is the perfect vehicle custom-built to deliver emotion.
Is emotional connection too squishy, warm & fuzzy, Kumbaya for the AEC industry? No, we are already using it. Our industry is built on relationships. How are relationships built? By creating positive emotional connections one person at a time.
Stories Help Us Lead
Quick, who are the greatest leaders in American history? I’ll wait for you to list three. Your list might include Kennedy, Lincoln, or Martin Luther King because a common skill among great leaders is the ability to tell stories. This extends beyond politics. When musicians, actors and athletes use story: as defined as authentic expression that moves audiences on an emotional level, they become idols. While our goal may not be hero worship, storytelling helps us lead in business too. Beth Comstock, Chief Marketing Officer of GE says, “you must first tell a story, before you can sell a story.” Leadership and storytelling are inseparable. Plato said, “people that tell stories rule the world.” Which market would you like to rule?
Story Allows Us In
Nobody likes to be sold. We feel manipulated. Our audience keeps their defenses up against our persuasive charm. But story can let you in. When people listen to, or read a story, they become physically more receptive. They relax their shoulders, release their jaw, and even lower their heartbeat. Story also induces mental relaxation. Listeners become less analytical and can reach a trance-like state. This is why parents read stories to their children before bedtime. Story connects to the subconscious and imagination centers of the brain. Story, like a Trojan Horse, gets us inside the gate to then move our audience to act.
Story Moves Our Audience to Buy
Human beings liked to be moved on an emotional level. It makes us feel alive. We seek out emotional experiences on the page, stage, screen and stadium to escape from our overly logical lives. While logic makes people think, emotion makes people act. We purchase using emotion and later justify with fact. Think about the last big purchase you made. Maybe it was a house or a car. Sure, you did logical research. If you are really nerdy, you created a spreadsheet comparing positive and negative attributes among your choices. But, when you had to decide, you probably went with your gut. You walked into your new house and it just felt right. Selection committees don’t choose a firm solely based on lowest fee (a logical decision). Emotional connection, a feeling that the team will be great to work with, influences the final decision.
As Professional Service Marketers, all we sell is a promise to deliver. This promise must be credible (your firm’s reputation) and logical (proven project delivery method). These two attributes will get you on a short list. Harnessing the power of story to connect emotionally can win you the work.
Books That Have Informed My Thinking on Storytelling To Win New Business
What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story by Mike Bosworth, Ben Zoldan
Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell the Best Stories Will Rule the Future by Jonah Sachs
The Story Factor by Annette Simmons
Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story by Peter Guber
resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Dan and Chip Heath
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Dan Pink
Has your firm used story to win new business?
When have you used story? In bios, project sheets, firm overviews, presentation interviews?
Do you find written or oral stories to be more effective?