It’s the Stories that Matter Most. Recognizing the power of story through person to person connections.
SOMETIMES YOU FIND A JOB, and sometimes a career finds you. This was the case with noted speaker and author Kindra Hall. Her expertise is in strategic storytelling—helping people in using story to captivate their audience, influence behavior, and, most importantly, develop deeper connections with others.
For whatever reason businesses often discount stories, Kindra says. Instead, they focus on features and benefits, data and pie charts—all in an effort to move their products and retain new customers. When really, it’s the stories that matter most. I recently connected with Kindra to get her thoughts on the power of the storytelling process, as well as what our industry does well and where we need to improve.
So how does story cut through the clutter?
Stories are a way that we make sense of the world around us as well as ourselves, so by nature, stories cut through the noise because they are something we as humans want to hear. Knowing this, companies can cut through the clutter by telling stories that show their empathy for what their customers are experiencing. Your tone and message should be: we can relate to what you are going through as a stay at home mom with three kids. You want to tell stories that are relatable to your customers’ journey, experience and circumstance. By doing this, prospective customers can immediately connect with your message and say to themselves, that sounds like my situation, and I want that same journey for myself. That’s where the power of story really resides.
“ Our capacity to understand skyrockets if lessons are tied to a story.”
You have attended many events as a keynote speaker for direct selling companies, so give us your perspective or general thoughts on our industry in general.
I love all of my audiences and enjoy speaking for a variety of industries, but there is something really incredible about talking to a room or arena full of people in the direct selling industry. The reason being, the direct selling industry is already winning at recognizing the power of stories in person to person connections. They are very adept at taking what I teach and putting it into action right away.
In your experience what can we do better or what do you see that we need to work on?
There are a lot of companies doing a really good job of letting their leaders grow by allowing them to have their own voice through the stories they tell (within the rules and regulations of income and product claims of course). I would advise more companies to seek that balance and encourage/support their salesforce to share and shape their personal stories. Then the company can leverage those stories through this unique distribution channel. Part of personal growth is being able to tell story of your growth. So that’s number one.
Number two, I’ve learned through my experience in the industry that there is an inherent challenge that comes with working with a volunteer army. My advice to executives is to listen to the stories that are being told within your field, whether positive or negative. Don’t be afraid of them!
Instead, approach them with genuine curiosity. A lot can be learned and improved when we have the courage to listen to the stories that are uncomfortable to hear.
And lastly, don’t feel like the only stories the leadership team can tell are the ones that are all rainbows and unicorns. Don’t be afraid to tell stories of when things didn’t exactly go the way you wanted them to, even the initiatives that failed miserably. There’s so much power in being authentic in owning up to one’s failures. People today really connect with companies and leaders who can express the fact that they make mistakes and learn from their lessons.
What are some tips you can give to our audience about how to motivate and inspire both their employees and independent salesforce?
First and foremost, and for both employees and the salesforce, love them through it. This is a business of growth and while growth is exciting, it also comes with growing pains. In these moments of growth, your job is much more about deploying inspiration and encouragement to influence their behavior than it is about edicts and orders. By doing your best to show them that you care, understand and appreciate them speaks volumes and will pay dividends down the road.
With that end in mind, share stories that illustrate the behavior you want. The better you are at telling those stories, the better they will understand what you are needing from them. Our capacity to understand skyrockets if lessons are tied to a story. Think about the key messages you want or need to deliver to your field. If there are stories you can tell that can help paint a picture of the messages you want to convey the greater the impact will be. And the same storytelling strategy is true internally. Stories are a powerful way to keep teams motivated and inspired.
“You need to amplify whenever possible, at your events, in conference calls with field leaders, that success in direct selling takes hard work, and it’s not for everyone.”
Where do you think direct selling industry needs to improve?
There’s a fine line to walk between the beauty (the rewards that can come with success) and the reality that comes with entrepreneurship (the hard work, the hustle that is needed, the sacrifice that is involved, as well as the need to push through when times are tough).
Striking this balance is where the industry needs to improve upon. You need to amplify whenever possible, at your events, in conference calls with field leaders, that success in direct selling takes hard work, and it’s not for everyone. The more you do this, the more you will weed out those who aren’t serious about putting in the time.
There’s power in sharing stories that show the reality of what it is to be an entrepreneur and how hard it is. I love the quote that says If you want something that no one else has, you have to do what no one else will. And if there is one piece of advice I could give this industry is you don’t have to sugarcoat things to get more business builders through the door. There is also power in saying, this is who we are…we do the hard work because it is worth it.
Tell us about your book that will be coming out in September.
The title of the book is Stories that Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences and Transform Your Business. It not only addresses key factors that make stories such an
effective strategy in business, but it identifies some of the most important stories that any business needs to tell. I’m really excited about getting it into the hands of the direct selling industry!