Once Upon a Time: Storytelling Stimulates the Brain into Action

By Dan Sixsmith

Storytelling is a term that has emerged in marketing and sales as a means of leading the buyer down a path toward the realization that your solution is something he/she needs.

In this age of Frugalnomics, as the ability for you to communicate your value is more important than ever, good value storytelling can mean the difference between sales success, and “do nothing” failure.

In order to be effective, value storytelling needs to occur in a certain way. Tell your value story the wrong way, and your prospect might be bored, your message easily forgotten, and “do nothing” the result.  Crafted the right way, you can create a powerful effect on your prospect, and literally ignite the buying decision.

A new article in PsyBlog, The Psychology of Storytelling and Empathy, Animated outlines exactly what you need to not only connect with your audience, but also get your prospect to take action.

Neuroscience indicates that effective storytelling actually causes a change in the audience’s brain, involving an automatic secretion of two chemicals: Cortisol, which is the usual response to distress, but signals and maintains engagement and focus, helping the audience pay more attention; and Oxytocin, which deepens the level of engagement and creates a feeling of empathy.

What does this mean for your B2B marketing and sales strategy? In a world of shorter and shorter attention spans and skepticism, the ability for you to generate hyper buyer engagement, attention, recall and empathy could mean all the difference between the success and failure of your next campaign or sales rep conversation.

So how can you develop and communicate an epic value story? It doesn’t mean you need to tell a scary or sad story. It does means you need to tell a story about your value that resonates in a personal and emotional way with your audience—a value story that excites the senses and unfolds in a specific and scientific manner. A value story that says you understands the buyer’s challenges and can solve their business issues, but told with specific content and sequence.

According to the neuroscience research, an effective story must contain a specific structure known as a “dramatic arc” (as espoused by 19th Century novelist Gustav Freytag) and include the following key elements:
  • Exposition
  • Rising Action
  • Climax
  • Falling Action
  • Denouement

So how does this help you tell a better value story? You too must leverage these key successive elements in the “dramatic arc”:

> The Exposition of a story sets the stage and provides important background information. In your business story, you need to get the buyer’s attention, outlining the current business challenges your prospect faces on a daily basis (a day in the life).

> The Rising Action of a story builds suspense and captures the reader’s interest. This is where you detail the perils of the status quo, and if no action is taken, its continued detrimental effect on the prospect and the “cost of doing nothing”.

> In the Climax of a story we experience the turning point and we see a glimmer of hope for the future. In the most impactful value story, you begin to discuss what is possible, the ‘what if’, and begin painting a picture as to the solution that will change our prospect’s fortunes for the better.

> In the Falling Action of a story, we still experience some unresolved and outstanding tensions that are waiting for closure. There is a great deal of suspense and the conclusion is in doubt. In the successful value story the tension of your prospects business challenges begin to ease as you discuss how the solution will save the day, but also indicate risks if a particular path is not chosen correctly. Here is where you outline how the solution can overcome the issues, and the benefits your solution can specifically provide.

> The Denouement is the powerful ending of the story where the characters in our story resolve their issues. In the effective business story, this is where you drive it all home and deliver valuable and relevant proof points to remove the risk, proving successful value realization from your solutions with case studies and testimonials.
So, how well are you telling your value story today? 
Is it crafted and delivered in a way that stimulates the buyer’s brain? 
Does it follow the storytelling arc for best effect?

By following the “storytelling arc”, communicating the challenges, cost of do nothing, what if, value and proof points in a compelling and systematic fashion, you can stimulate the buyer’s brain, causing chemical changes that allow you to engage your buyer emotionally, in  more memorable fashion, and ignite the buying decision.


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