As we emerge from lockdown, businesses need to tell a different type of story to their clients than they were two years ago.
While stories remain the most effective way to create meaning and communicate values, the pandemic has changed so much, including the nature of selling and pitching.
Values and trust were always important components in a relationship buying process.
Now they are crucial.
This four-beat structure can be used to create a 60-second top-line pitch or the spine of a half hour presentation with the slides in your deck chaptered accordingly.
It requires you to answer four questions:
1) What did you learn?
The last eighteen months have been the steepest of learning curves. We all went through a collective crisis, and we all went through individual crises. We discovered things about ourselves as individuals, teams, and companies.
What we learned informed the way we engage with each other and the way we serve our customers. In most narratives there is a trigger event. It isn’t what makes the story. What makes the story is how the hero responds and what they find out about themselves.
2) What did you do?
Pivoting was the verb of the age. Choice defines character. Probably you made some good choices and probably you made some less good choices.
Share them with your customers.
No one who claims to get it right all the time has credibility. And no one who gets it consistently wrong has any either. Credibility lies somewhere in between.
The last eighteen months been a period of struggle for everyone. Struggle is like Velcro. Clients hook their struggle onto your struggle. It’s also the best way to show how you innovated without sounding as though you’re blowing your own trumpet.
3) How have you changed?
Stages 1 and 2 are the past.
Stage 3 bridges to the present and anticipates the future.
Protagonists are changed by their experiences. You and your team were changed by yours. What were your conclusions and how have they equipped you for the future?
One of the story types outlined by Christopher Booker in his book The Seven Basic Plots is ‘Overcoming the Monster’. An important part of the struggle is that the hero can return to lead their community in a different and a better way because of their experiences.
How have you been changed by yours?
4) Why should I care?
This final stage is absolutely about the future. To complete it you must know what your client wants to do next and what they’re looking for in a supplier or partner. It’s about understanding your audience. Some will want to go on a quest, others return to order.
Gather the threads of the story together, otherwise you have a free-floating narrative from which people may or may not draw the conclusion you would like them to.
Many things have changed, but not everything has changed. Clients still need to know what takeaways are geared to their individual requirements.
As they always will.