Charlie Lawson, author of The Unnatural Networker, and I often argue about the importance of knowing how to tell a good story. Think about the last networking meeting you attended where the participants had a chance to introduce themselves: Did you find them interesting? Did they get your attention? Were they attractive? Or did you end up thinking: Do I really have to continue this conversation?
Have a good story ready to tell
If you want to know if people are really listening to you, give them a good story. Charlie gave me an example regarding a member of a business referral network (Business Networking International) named Dena.
Dena ran a real estate agency based in Yorkshire, England, specializing in short-term accommodation. One cold and rainy afternoon in February she received a call. Dena could tell that the woman on the line—who we’ll call Ann—was quite upset by all the commotion from the children running in the background. Ann had been thrown out of a house by her partner, who had left her with the children, and she was calling to see if Dena could help her.
“I know this doesn’t usually happen on such short notice,” Ann admitted, “but I need a place to stay tonight.”Dena managed to get her a piece of property and told the harassed mother that they would work out the details as soon as possible the next day. Then, just as Dena was about to hang up the phone, she asked, “Where are you now?”
Ann told her that she was standing on the side of a road, with the children in tow, along with a couple of suitcases and no transportation. So Dena got in her car, picked up the woman and children, and drove them to her temporary residence where they managed to work things out.After telling this story, Charlie asked me if I would ever give Dena a business opportunity. I responded, as anyone would, with an effusive yes!
Reveal something they remember
Dena realized that they were in a serious situation and that she could make a difference for Ann and her family.An average agent would offer short-term or last-minute solutions before hanging up for the next call. What sells these services best is the fact that we know we would feel comfortable referring the agent who served us — and that’s where storytelling impacts.
It becomes memorable and is the kind of thing we would recount in our later conversations. The next time someone asks me about a real estate agent, who do you think I’m going to remember?
Serving potential clients in a time of need
Although we may not have been in that situation ourselves, the story helps us understand how the person involved felt. Ann really did lead her family into a permanent apartment, but what resonates most is the way Dena served her potential client in a time of need.
Storytelling is more interesting, memorable, and referable than simple facts about the services you provide. Remember the reason we go to networking events: to do business through referrals. We have to give our network of contacts the tools to find those references and I think effective anecdotes are a great way to do that. Plus, compelling stories, as Charlie likes to say, “won’t bore people to tears.”