There’s nothing better than a great story. The highs and lows, the twists and turns, the storyteller’s ability to make us feel something about the people in the story and care about what ultimately happens to them.
The best storytellers know how to weave us into their stories, showing us how our hopes, fears, successes and foibles make us more likeable and human—make us less different and more like everyone else.
Savvy sales professionals know the power of a great story. But savvy sales professionals might not know about The Moth, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling.
While TED takes the spotlight for talks given by inspiring professionals and their “ideas worth spreading,” The Moth connects people with other people just like them, all of whom have fascinating stories to share. Every month, in cities all over the world, storytellers come together to share. And every so often, a story is dubbed a GrandSlam champion by those listening.
If you’re a sales pro, you certainly have a thing (or four) to glean from The Moth and its legacy of GrandSlam storytelling champions. Let’s have a look.
1. There's a Story Under the Story
One listen to Aaron Wolf’s winning story, “The Wagon," and it’s undeniable: Details rule. Audiences crave the story behind the story, and with Wolf’s, we fall in love with how he shares his internal monologue while his story unfolds.
When you tell a story in pursuit of selling an idea or product, are you telling a story from the surface only? Or are you taking the bold step to share the deeper details, the story behind the story that we rarely get the chance to hear?
2. Your Unique Experience Is Relatable
If you’re skimming this article, read just this line and then listen to Adam Wade’s GrandSlam winning story. Wade is a two-time GrandSlam champion, and it’s easy to see why. As he recounts—in his loud, unapologetic and uncensored way—his story about becoming an NBC Page, we quickly fall in love with him and hope with all our might for the best possible outcome.
While few (if any) of us have ever gone through the NBC Page program, we relate to the awkward style of Wade’s experience. The nuanced details of the bag that's carrying his bed sheets. The feeling he got when he made a mistake. Describing those feelings in detail brings people inside your story and makes your unique experience universal and relatable for your audience. Are you sharing real emotion or just showing data in your sales presentations? One (emotion) makes the other (data) mean a whole lot more.
3. Life Isn’t Pretty
Taking an audience back to their childhood is a common sales tactic. Remember how fun it was before we were grown and had responsibilities? Yes, I do. But what about those childhood moments that make us rethink our roles as adults? Kathleen Miller’s “Point of No Return” hammers this point home, thoroughly but gently, and in spades. Recounting her tour as an awkward and nerdy kid, we relate to her geekiness and grip our armrests when we hear about her science class mishaps. While we’ll get to the twist in a minute, Miller reminds us all that life isn’t pretty.
Sometimes we’re not selling the idealized lifestyle to our customers—sometimes we’re selling them a solution that sucks less. A solution that will make their life suck less and make them feel a bit better. One that will make their business run just a bit smoother.
There are lessons to be learned about the power of honesty in front of every audience, as Miller’s mom shares with the school principal and her daughter later on. If only we could all be more honest with our customers.
4. Relish the Twist
"Revenge," David Crabb’s GrandSlam winning story, hits all the points above and one more. We all love a story with a sweet twist. As Crabb leads us through his relationship with his friend, Roxanne, we come to know her—her behavior, personality, ways, and exactly how it’s possible for her to do something as evil as she ultimately does to him (which he recounts with great humor).
But listen to the end—for the twist. When Crabb’s about to get his ever-so-sweet and equitable revenge, the twist comes, and he rethinks his decision because he sees the story underneath the story. Ah, the sweet twist.
If you’re leading your customers and audience on a repeatedly linear path, they’ll tune out. Twists fling a literary lasso around the people you need following you, looping them back in when they least expect it. Finding your twist and honing the art of the twist can up the ante on your sales-related storytelling and keep your customers and audiences perked up and waiting for the next left when they’re expecting a right.
A Final Piece of Advice
And here’s No. 5, a sweet bonus for sticking around so long while I extolled the virtues of the storytellers of The Moth.
Unlike TED talks (and hey, I’ve given one), which can seem so lofty and inaccessible to those just looking to improve their speaking or storytelling, The Moth storytellers brings an everyman nature to the art. If you’ve ever been in a high-pressure sales scenario, it’s easy to wonder whether you’re doing enough—whether what you have is enough.
The answer? As you’ve heard with each of the four GrandSlam stories above (and Moth storytellers in general), the answer is yes, you are enough. The next time you’re prepping for that big sales presentation and wondering which story to share to bring your audience inside your world, understand that there’s one hiding in your treasure trove of life experiences.
You are enough and what you have is enough. Embrace that, and others will, too.
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Photo: Ed Gavagan