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Why should professionals learn to tell stories

Why should professionals learn to tell stories
Ajai Kumar - Vice President - Engineering R&D | February 8, 2019
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For a moment, close your eyes and think about the best memories of your childhood. I am pretty sure that many of you will recall a family member (grandparent/parent/relative) narrating stories to you. I used to love hearing stories and always looked forward to every opportunity for a story session.

Now let’s visualize if different stakeholders we interact with in our professional world would also be eagerly awaiting to hear what we have to say. Wouldn’t that be a dream come true? And that is exactly the reason why I wanted to draw your attention toward the power of storytelling and its relevance in the professional environment.

Are you having trouble visualizing the applicability of storytelling in a business environment? Let’s discuss this through an approach taken by a salesperson when he was confronted with a tough customer. He was trying to pitch the benefits of cloud applications to a customer who was unwilling to look at other alternatives as he was satisfied with the offerings of his on-premise applications.

The salesperson shared a personal story about how he used to enjoy the offerings of a particular airline and availed them for all travel needs. A few months back, he was trying to schedule a family vacation and air tickets of his preferred airlines were sold out on the date/time he wanted to fly. This made him visit a different travel portal, which had a plethora of options, including several flights, closer airports, convenient times, cheaper flights, and efficient travel. With great options in hand, he was also able to spend another half a day with his family at a chosen tourist venue.

By relying on the services of a single airline in the past, he’d deprived himself of better travel experiences. He then pointed it out to his customer that he too was making the same mistake by depriving himself by not leveraging the power of cloud applications. The same customer who was earlier not even willing to talk now had an extremely productive/open dialog on why/how to migrate to the cloud applications.

Whenever we’re sharing our experiences, making presentations, or trying to invoke actions from others, we can leverage storytelling as a key marketing strategy. This is applicable for all professionals who interact with stakeholders (externally or internally). Storytelling is a mix of science and art. It helps people connect emotionally with the data being presented. Here are some of the potential benefits of storytelling marketing strategy:

  • Differentiates the presenter from others. Sometimes, to process a big idea holistically, we need to step away from the situation and think about it in another context to bring a fresh perspective
  • Effectively communicates for audience to easily relate and retain the message.
  • Faster connection with audience. Because the data is applicable to real people, in the real world and influences/motivates them for action/next steps.

Not only for presentation by individuals, but a clearly communicated story is also the solid backbone for a strong marketing strategy for any organization. This helps to:

  • Remove clutter – Every piece of the content has an intention/value proposition, tied into the overarching vision of the organization.
  • Convey the business purpose to the outside world
  • Connect with people and improve brand loyalty

Some organizations have already invested in establishing their brands through the art of storytelling. These organizations are not afraid to tell real stories of their struggles, conflicts, setbacks, and successes to help people understand the passion and heart that went into creating and building the brand. This phenomenon ties very well into the famous quotes “People would rather invest in a human than a company” or “People do business with people”. Studies have shown that such organizations with shared values can outperform their counterparts in stock price and profit performance. By wrapping their vision into a beautiful captivating story, and communicating it clearly via heartfelt marketing strategy, organizations can be assured of long term brand loyalty. Story-telling is a great competitive advantage.

As professionals, we must develop our own style of storytelling marketing. Here are some suggestions on how to communicate the message:

  • Determine the ideas/key points you want to communicate. Remember that the key takeaway is always important.
  • Keep the story short ideally up to two-three minutes
  • Portray the story like a movie and make it interesting/intense by revolving around a challenge/conflict and how was it fixed. You may even pick a funny situation and bring out your witty side and sense of humor
  • Add some fluff/details with ups and downs to create the desired impact by leveraging vivid language. Create some drama/tension
  • Practice and practice. You may do it in front of a mirror by saying it aloud to get a hang of it
  • Make it personal and easy to relate to
  • Connect the dots between your message and story

That said, I’d highly encourage you to develop your own style of storytelling which you, as an individual, should be comfortable with. On the other hand, organizations must invest in training its employees on how to tell effective stories and enhance their brand marketing strategy through storytelling. After all, “Great stories happen to those who tell them.”

Great stories happen to those who tell them

Are you ready to communicate your point of view to the world through the art of storytelling?


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