Facts tell, but stories sell
October 08, 2013 by Pedro Silva
There’s a saying in the world of sales—“Facts tell, but stories sell”. The meaning behind this saying is obvious. If you want a person to purchase your products or services, you have to tell them a story. You can’t just tell them what the product or service does or the statistics behind them, you have to tell them what the product or service DOES FOR THEM. Like any good storyteller, a good salesperson knows that the hero of the story is the customer. The trusted salesperson’s job is simply to assist the customer by demonstrating how and why purchasing their product or service, will assist the customer in making their own business or lives better.
There’s also another saying whispered among people who see making a sale as the ends versus the means. People, who are more concerned with making a sale than creating a mutually beneficial relationship with a customer, say to themselves, “When it comes to customers, their fear of loss is greater than their desire for gain.” When a person believes this, it influences how they tell the story. In their version of the story, the customer is not the hero. Rather, the customer plays the character of the fool, while they play the hero. Rather than sell the story, they try to confuse the customer by selling “facts”. They make bold statement such as:
“100 percent of literate people reading this sentence are capable of reading this entire post. This increases the chances of them liking this post by 100 percent. However, if I did not write this post there is also a 100 percent chance that they would never like it. Therefore by writing this post, I have actually increased the chances of readers liking it by 200 percent. If you would like to increase the chances of readers liking your posts by 200 percent, let me write for you.”
Once the customer is thoroughly confused, it is up to the expert to make sense out of the nonsense the customer has just been exposed to. By first creating a fear of loss—the absence of the above mentioned 200 percent gain—what the expert is then actually selling to the customer is pain relief rather than the actual product or service meant to improve or accentuate the virtues of the customer’s business. Nowhere does this happen more than in the world of marketing.
The method many marketers use to create the context for a sale is to start by using statistics and facts to show the target that they are on the “wrong side”. Their goal is to show the target what they are missing and what they have to fear rather than to enhance what they have to offer and gain. Although this is type of marketing has been common practice since the early days of snake oil salesmen and carnival sideshows, the tactics of using fear and sensationalism to make sales in today’s social media saturated marketplace rivals the nineteenth century use of yellow journalism. In the late 1800s media magnates Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst began using fear and exaggeration in their reporting to drive up sales. And while those methods seemed to work in garnering the desired sales, ultimately they treated their readers as fools and dishonored their business, which was to inform their customers about what was actually happening in the world.
When Hearst and Pulitzer dishonored pure journalism by exaggerating the facts in order to sell newspapers, they not only dishonored their own businesses, they ultimately dishonored the trade itself. In order to compete, other papers felt they had to follow suit. As a result, the entire news media industry was affected, leaving their customers uncertain of whom they can trust and creating a disproportionate amount of fear inducing stories in comparison to stories that inspire. In essence they assisted in creating an environment where we often see good news as bad for business.
In a like manner, when businesses and marketers tell a story of fear and loss in order to drive sales, they not only make fools of the customer, they dishonor their own true story—the story of why they got into business in the first place. The fact is that every company that has endured the test of time began with an honorable story. At the company’s genesis, there was an idea. Someone created a product or a service or discovered a new way of doing things. And that product or service or innovation had the goal of making lives better. Their business inspired other businesses and created jobs and opportunities. Their story influenced other stories in a positive way and that was what made business good. The truth is people do not want to be frightened into action. They want to be inspired. That’s why it does not honor the true nature of business when people in our profession take the route of hiding behind numbers and throwing a lot of features at the customer that don’t actually serve in telling their story. The job of the marketer and the design team is to tell that story of honor; the story that inspires people to positive and creative action; the story of what makes business good.
There is a huge distinction between what you say and how you say it. In a market where people often focus on keywords, buzzwords, and search words in order to drive people to their sites, Pedro stays focused on why you want them there. He leads the horses to water and then highlights the virtues of taking that drink. Drawing on his experience in intelligence, sales, recruitment, and human empowerment/potential, he creates content that resonates with the highest ideals of both the company and the customer--because you can't have one without the other.
Pedro is a collegue and friend. He has helped us with copy writing, editing and helping us think about the "big picture." If you have a need for copy or startegic planning I would highly recommend Pedro.
- Arik Brooks