Here’s the neuroscience (you knew it was coming!).
When we tell stories, they bypass the skeptical part of people’s brains (their frontal cortex) and connect with their emotional brain (the limbic system). The good news is that this is where people make decisions.
When you break out those bullet points, the only two areas that light up in someone’s brain are the ones that recognize language. Yup — these are in the frontal cortex, so you’ve just given them a reason to resist you.
Tell better stories. Here’s one way to do that.
Have you ever asked people for a testimonial? Then followed up a million times to remind them? And when that small percentage actually responded, what did you get?
“Thank you, John, for the wonderful job you did. It was a pleasure to work with you, and I hope to get the chance to do it again.”
Stop Being Embarrassed
It was hard enough for you to ask in the first place, because you didn’t want to look pushy or egotistical. Get over it! People who appreciate what you do usually are happy to recognize you.
But when you received the few sentences that said nothing, you thought you had no choice but to thank them and live with it. Try something better. Lead the process and make it easier for someone to give you what you want.
What’s In a Good Story?
You avoid meaningless “happy-speak” when you ask specific questions: either in an email or a conversation:
1. What problem were you facing?
You probably already know this. But you’re asking because you ultimately want to tell the story to attract other people with the same issue. This makes it good to start with the pain.
2. What were your concerns about working with me/my company?
I believe people should be skeptical about me and what I do — they’re starting in resistance, after all. So I invite my clients to tell me about their fears. This ultimately shows the reader that these folks were no pushovers.
3. How did I work to solve your problem?
This is the crux. It will tell your reader — and you! — what makes you unique.
4. What results did you see?
Readers will want to know that you can move the needle for them. And if there are quantifiable outcomes, so much the better!
Making the Most of Your Story
You can stop here and have a good story. Or you can ask two more questions:
5. Under what circumstances would you recommend me/my company to someone else?
6. Is there anyone else you want to help to [name the problem you solved]?
Now you’ve turned a good story into a business development opportunity!
For years I’ve used this line about websites, but it’s just as applicable here. “No one comes to your website to learn about you. They come to see themselves. And if you can show them you’ve already solved the same problem for someone else, you reduce their perceived risk in working with you — and shorten the amount of time it will take to contact you.”
Create stories that recognize the people you work with — and attract the people you want to work with. Never again be satisfied with dreck!