No More Boring Case Histories!
The tired-but-true approach to telling a company success story:
One of the most important ways to build credibility with a new prospect is through your company’s success story. However, many success stories are more like success reports. They often consist of a general set of boilerplate facts. These facts may enhance your company’s credibility, even impress your prospect. But unless they get that prospect to feel some desire or think, “I need that,” little else is accomplished.
Here’s an all-too-familiar, tired-but-true success story formula that often serves as the scaffolding for a success story.
•State The Problem: i.e. “Life Charities was having a difficult time generating donations”
•State The Solution: i.e. “We helped them increase their donations through a uniquely car donation program we created and implemented for them.”
•Show Measurable Results. i.e Life Charities increased their donations 3-fold in one year. ”
If you’ve ever watched a replay of a sporting event or a previously seen movie, you certainly aren’t watching it for the surprise outcome. It’s the same with your company’s success stories. As soon as you begin to demonstrate your company’s accomplishments, your audience already knows that your story is going to have a happy ending. Consequently, the better way to hold their interest is by showing them how certain events led to success while making certain that they see how your success has relevance to their needs.
The 3R’s Approach To Delivering A Powerful Success Story
Using the 3-R’s approach to telling a success story will help you engage your audience far better than the standard problem, solution, results triumvirate.
The three R’s stand for Relate, Rescue, and Resolve. Here’s how to put them to work:
It is critical that you draw parallels between the problem you solved and the problem or problems that your prospect is experiencing. Success stories are only as effective as your audience’s ability to relate to them. Don’t do this and your presentation will be little more than an invitation to mentally check out. It is almost better to have no success story at all than to have one that has nothing to do with your prospect’s situation.
Don’t leave it up to your prospect to find relevance. Chances are, the won’t. Instead, be able to use language like “similar to what you are currently experiencing,” or just like you…..” Keep in mind that “You” is the most important word in any presentation.
You’ll gain points by having equipped yourself with facts about your prospect’s current problem, but you could blow-up your entire presentation with a set of wrong facts or worse yet, faulty assumptions. Just make sure you’ve done your homework.
Additionally, don’t make the company you worked with the centerpiece of your story. People relate to people more than they relate to companies. ABC Lugnuts Inc. may have had a problem, but talk more about Mr. Lugnuts. Talk about what he was experiencing and how he felt being faced with a problem that your audience is familiar with. Perhaps Mr. Lugnuts was frustrated with what had been tried in the past? Perhaps he was perplexed, confused, or convinced that there was just no workable solution to his problem. Get your audience to relate to feelings, not just facts.
And whatever you do, don’t gloss over the problem. One of the reasons stories are more interesting than reports is that they are comprised of interesting and identifiable conflicts. Do what you can to help your prospect feel the pain that the protagonist of your story was experiencing. There’s no need for big drama; you needn’t go overboard. Your audience does not have the time nor the patience for a sideshow. A question like “Have you ever experienced a 20% drop in sales over the course of a month,?” can do as much to set up an identifiable conflict than a short novel. If your prospect answers yes, they know the pain. If they answer no, help them imagine what that pain feels like.
The Rescue is the “something happened” part of the story and it is often the part of most success stories that gets short shrift. Yet, it is where most of the magic exists. I once heard it said that this is where your audience should hear angels singing in the background.
The “something happened” part of your success story could be a discovery, an insight, or some other event that lead to the result. It is the part of your story that provides best opportunity for your audience to see how you think. Skip through your success story without talking much about the rescue, and the only thing your audience will hear may be thoughts wishing you were done.
Instead of jumping right into a description of your solution to a given problem, tell your audience how you got there. Bring them to the doorstep of your “aha” moment. However, do maintain a sense of humility. It’s better to say something like, “after struggling with this a bit, it suddenly dawned on me,” than “the solution should have been obvious to anyone paying attention.”
If you can, use dialogue. Nothing makes a story more interesting than dialogue. “I talked with his people and that helped me to more clearly see his problem,” pales in comparison to, “I looked at him and said, “Mr. Lugnuts, I talked with your people. And I think you’re going to be surprised at what I found out.” One of the reasons dialogue works it that it helps audiences see events unfolding in their their heads.
Measurable results are the best results to provide. But don’t limit yourself to facts and data. Feelings are just as important. Go beyond the numbers to explain the long-term effect your solution had on sentiments that were felt by the person you were helping. It could be a new sense of optimism, excitement, or less burden. Help you audience know they will feel the same way.