Are You a Humble Storyteller?

For many of you in sales or business development, you face a regular (or even daily) challenging question: Where’s the line between aggressively promoting your product or service versus arrogantly pitching and pushing your product or service? Similar questions include: What’s the difference between bragging and sharing? What’s the difference between educating and just talking about yourself? What’s the difference between being confident and being arrogant?

These are certainly important questions, but consider a different perspective. Instead of asking the foregoing questions, ask yourself this one: In what ways can I humbly and confidently educate others on the ways that my product or service helps people or organizations improve their outcomes? Isn’t this what it’s all about after all – if your product or service doesn’t help someone or some organization improve their outcomes, why should they bother? If we can agree on this solution and focus on the value of our product or service, that brings us to the question of how you can “humbly and confidently educate” people about the ways your product or service helps improve outcomes. The answer to me is clear – stop talking, and start humbly telling stories.

Let’s start with the humble part. There’s no real test to determine whether you’re being humbly confident or arrogantly cocky. Ultimately, it’s mostly about perception – specifically the perceptions of others. However, you will never fully control the perceptions of others. Therefore, the more important question is where your heart is. More specifically, is your heart in it?

When you sell from the head, it will always be about you. That’s the nature of your head—that is, your logical thinking. No matter what you say you want to do or be, if only your head is behind it, you can be assured that your agenda (not their needs!) will be the focal point. Therefore, you will naturally come across as salesy, pushy, transactional and self-focused.

In contrast, when your words come from the heart, you will naturally be focused on serving, helping and solving. You will certainly be purposeful in educating people about the ways you can help, but your intentions will be from a place of service. Your sharing will be driven by the passionate desire to help someone improve their outcomes with your product or service.

The other guarantee is that if you speak from the heart, you will be willing to tell someone when your product or service is not the right or best fit to help improve their outcomes. The head is about winning, while the heart is about giving people the right solution – not necessarily your solution. In short, when you sell from the heart, you can almost be assured that you will be communicating (and educating) from a humble place.

That brings us back to stories. No one wants to be pitched. No one wants to be sold. No one wants to be told how great your product or service is, and they especially don’t want to be told how great you think you are. But people do want to get help to improve their outcomes. This is why storytelling is such an important piece of the puzzle for anyone engaging in building relationships, business development and sales.

People can easily understand and relate to stories. People can enter in and connect with stories because they create a visual experience for the listener. They will see things happening, not just hear about them. Thus, storytelling is my answer to the question of the best way to humbly and confidently educate others.

One caveat or warning: storytelling does not involve crafting a story that is designed to tell anyone who will listen how great you think you, your product or your service is. In other words, storytelling is not merely a strategy or a tactic to get past people’s objections. Storytelling comes from the heart and is a natural part of your conversation and interaction, which has the opportunity to allow people to better understand you and the ways that you help people and organizations improve their outcomes. In other words, your stories should be naturally woven into your conversations.

All of this means that many times – in fact most times – your stories will not be planned or orchestrated. They will be natural stories that you share in the midst of connective conversations which allow the other person to experience you and your product or service in a safe way. This approach is not only safe, but it is sticky. People get it more easily and more predictably—and they retain it. Isn’t that your ultimate goal?

As with so many things in life and business, the key to a better answer is a better question. Answering the question I offered you above (In what ways can I humbly and confidently educate others on the ways that my product or service helps people or organizations improve their outcomes?) will help you more confidently, humbly, consistently and effectively educate others on the ways that your product or service can improve outcomes. Just always remember to sell from the heart. It’s the only way to ensure that you’re engaging in servant selling, rather than self-serving selling.

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