Friday, November 12, 2010

KeFactors Friday: The value of story

Human beings love stories, and we’re natural storytellers as well.

And one of the first things a fiction writer learns is “Show, don’t tell.”
Instead of saying “Harry was a busy, impatient man,” it’s more evocative to say “As his wife described her day, Harry drummed the table with his fingers until she glared at him.” That says a lot about Harry, his wife, and the possible state of their marriage.

And here’s how stories fit in with work life.

• Don’t sell the product or service; tell a story. Instead of praising the new
capabilities you’ve just invested in, tell the prospect a story about a client who had a particular problem and how your team and this new capability solved the problem.
• Praise in detail, not generalities of business-speak. Got a great employee?
Don’t just say “Susan consistently demonstrates professional skill” but “Susan returns client calls within 24 hours, tries to regularly meet with each and every customer, and endeavors to keep them informed of new trends and technology.”
• Customers tell stories too. That’s the power of word-of-mouth: free advertising! The best stories anyone could ever tell about your company arises from complaint resolution: “This vendor made a small mistake on our project but when we pointed it out to them, they didn’t get defensive. They thanked us for catching it, made the improvements, and took care of us immediately. I’d recommend them without hesitation. Heck, everyone makes mistakes.” (What could’ve happened: “Oh my God, we caught a mistake they’d made and you would not believe the hassle we experienced trying to get this little error resolved. First, they got huffy and hinted we’d caused the problem. Next they apologized, which somehow didn’t make it better because by then we were desperate to just get it done on time. Hire them with caution!”)

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