Data is Nice but it Don’t Make Ya Cry


I recently read an article and buried within, was a short research snippet on the power of stories vs. data.  It was pretty cool.   Got me thinking about how to influence your clients.

The research was a social experiment where students were given $5 to use any way they wanted.  Half the group was then shown a straightforward commercial about a children’s charity devoted to removing hunger; you know – the typical fare about how many children are helped with just so much a day, how your money can sustain so many children or a family – good stuff.

The other half was shown different kind of commercial for the same charity.  It was a little story about a single child and his suffering journey through life.  He of course had a name and it was repeated often in the commercial.  He eventually found happiness and health through the charity.

The students in the first group gave an average of $1.43 of their $5 to the charity and the students in the second group some of which were teary eyed, gave an average of $2.38 (a 66% increase over the first group).

Both commercials were short presumably – maybe 30 seconds maybe a minute long- not sure.  But I do know you have to ask yourself when you are trying to help a client solve some of their business problems with your solution – are you going to rely on the facts and data to make it happen or are you going to tell a short conversational story that inspires?

Don’t give me all that drivel about how consumers are not businesses.  People are people and there’s enough research to prove that business people make decisions as much on emotion as anything else.  That means that stories that elicit joy, optimism, happiness, relief, fear and even tears can influence business people.  Data is nice but it don’t make ya cry.

Tell a short story if you want to influence and motivate.    Here are 3 tips you might not have thought of on making that happen.

Steal The Stories:  Nobody believes you when all of your stories are first-hand experience. You once had a customer find that….and you once had this other customer that did this….. and that years ago you also had this other customer…” Truth is most people that use that approach all the time are making some of it up and it feels disingenuous.    What is more believable and often more truthful is “I have a colleague James in the Dallas office who had a client  who….”  Steal the stories from your colleagues and your company. There are many if you look for them!   If you are a leader—go find the stories and share them so your people can tell them.

Make Them HumanSure in the B2B world your stories are probably about similar businesses who found your product awesome but steal from the charity experiment and make it human.  “So AMC company was freaking out about the competition and Gary over there was working weekends and nights trying to stave off and protect his client base….”   You get the idea—people feel more connected and motivated with emotion, not facts.  Also testimonials are not stories.  Stories are told – not read.

Use Stories All Over the Sales Process:  Mini-stories that support a prospect learning more, a prospect working through the RFP process, a prospect working through risk assessment, price negotiations and /or lack of budget etc. etc. are as important as any story shared to close the deal.  Find those stories through the whole selling process because done well, those stories can influence the client to keep moving to the next step.


Till next time,

Grow The Business.