Win by Telling Stories

06/12/2015 08:42 am ET | Updated Jun 12, 2016

I live in many worlds as an entrepreneur, family business owner, board member and community developer. Each of these worlds has its own battles and opponents, and everyone wants to have their ideas and philosophies dominate. I've studied entrepreneurs who engage in the art of war to see how they win. One simple strategy they use is to tell simple and strategic stories. If you listen to them in interviews, or watch their marketing and sales approach, you'll soon catch on to three or four core stories that they share with everyone, everywhere. Hidden within those stories is a subtle, yet powerful message: "I see you. I hear you. You can trust me. Let's join forces." Whether you want to grow your network, increase sales or raise more money for your cause, you can do the same. Here's how:

I See You

People want to see parts of themselves in you. Why do some millionaires wear t-shirts, "cheap" suits, store department outfits, and jeans to events? It's strategic. They want you to see yourself in them. They want to visually tell the story that they are like you. If you are like them, then you know them. You like them. You can trust them. The result is, you will do business with them. After all, they are just like you. Beyond the visual appearance which is part of the storytelling, are the actual stories they share. You may not hear stories about expensive vacations, large trust accounts, and million dollar deals done on napkins. You will hear stories of rejection, adversity, and difficult relationships leading up to final success. Why? These stories say, "I see you!" Your customers, clients and followers want to know that you have been where they are. You relate to them, or at least understand what they need and want. Develop and rehearse one or two stories from your past that your audience can relate to. Sharing the truth about your journey does not have to be manipulative. It's a gift, and sometimes a very painful gift, you were given to excel in business. Use it.

I Hear You

If you listen closely to stories told by highly successful people, those who win hearts and minds and exert major influence, you'll hear questions. They ask rhetorical questions that are strategic. They are common objections raised by their audience or questions that target doubts. By posing the question, they acknowledge that they are listening. It's a way to say, "I hear you." This validation has a big payoff. If the recipient feels heard, the opposite of which is they feel ignored, they will be open to your ideas, products, services, cause or way of life. The mistake that I see many entrepreneurs make, is that they ignore objections and questions. They don't want to raise it for those who have not thought of it in the first place. Sometimes, they don't have a good solution and want to avoid it all together. It's a poor approach to storytelling. Be proactive and control the narrative before your opponents and competitors do it for you. Have great answers for the questions you raise.

You Can Trust me

Speeches without personal revelation are not sustainable. Many entrepreneurs tell facts. They share information about how their products and services are made. They have canned testimonials from customers who used their products. You may see results in the short-term, but they're not memorable. If you want to see more results in your business or fundraising efforts, share more about you. Tells stories that reveal parts of who you are and your past. Think secrets. It's a way to communicate to your listeners that they can trust you since you're willing to share your personal experiences. The opposite is also true. When you create a business persona and that's all the world sees, you create doubt. Some consumers or donors may overcome that doubt because they believe in your service or cause. Others won't.

When your stories incorporate all of these elements, your listeners will join forces with you. They'll share what you have to offer with friends and family, on social media and beyond. They'll even repeat your stories for you.