Are You a Good Angler?
How telling tales can win you all the business you want.
May 9, 2011
As practitioners look to build their practices in the new economy, many are going back to the basics to win new business. Telling tales or storytelling is the oldest form of marketing and communication and one of the basics that deserve a second look. I first wrote about this topic in 2008, and as one in three business clients is expected to consider a new CPA firm this year, it’s the perfect time to revisit it.
You may be thinking “Is she nuts? We’re numbers people. We’re all about bottom lines. Business leaders don’t have time for stories. They want facts and figures to earn our trust.”
Bad news! Numbers and facts without context can be confusing to many business people. They’re also transactional in nature and don’t easily lead to relationships. And worse, what your firm does is often perplexing to those outside the organization. No matter how striking your PowerPoint or website, most people don’t understand what you do, how you can help them or how you’re different from competitors.
So what’s a professional to do to win more new business? Although facts and figures may seem like the right way to win a decision-maker’s trust and business, you must connect with one’s emotions if you want them to make a change. “If you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it,” says Peter Guber, CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group and author of the new book Tell to Win. Buying isn’t a rational decision, but one that involves emotion. In this high-tech age, Guber calls storytelling “state-of-the-heart technology.” Simply put, “It’s important that you lead with your heart and not with your head.”
What does this mean for practitioners? You have to connect with people in ways in which they can relate. Today’s business leaders want more than meaningless jargon and service offerings when considering a new advisor including:
Good news. Stories allow you to answer prospects’ questions and more. Purposeful stories are one of the most powerful ways to build trust. Why? They have a number of business development superpowers including:
Three Stories to Tell
Chances are good that you already tell stories, but don’t realize it. To win, you must tell purposeful stories that connect with your audience. Are you simply repeating “the same old story” or telling something new that prospects want be a part of? For starters, there are three stories you should get comfortable telling.
Who am I Story. Whether a prospective client is deciding to meet with you or to listen to you, they need to know more than you’re a CPA. Help them understand who you are by sharing a simple experience that helps them feel like they know you, such as:
- Why you love what you do;
- Something you’re passionate about;
- Recent project you enjoyed working on and why; and
- Someone from your past who impacted you.
Firm Story. Tell a revered account about your firm that helps potential clients get to know your organization and why it is special. Replace talk of “we were founded in 1953” with narrative that resonates, such as:
- How did the firm get started?
- Why do you enjoy being a part of the firm?
- How does the firm make good on its promise?
Success Story. These are the stories that enable your audience to understand what you do and how you can help them. Great ones draw outsiders in by opening their eyes to new ways of achieving success.
- What struggle did a similar client face?
- How did you help them work through it?
- What were the results?
There’s no one right way to tell a story, but there are a number of elements to keep in mind as you prepare to tell:
Modern Day Campfires and Cave Walls
There are still campfires and cave walls in today’s business world, but they just look a little different. Let’s take a closer look at a few to consider. There are lots more out there, but the trick is to identify ones where your clients gather:
If you’re serious about winning new business it’s essential to help your audience understand who you are and how you can help them. That starts with a tale. Whoever tells the best story that helps prospective clients make sense of their situation is going to win their trust and their business. So dust off your stories. Tell tales your prospects want to be a part of.
Tracy Crevar Warren, founder of The Crevar Group, helps professional services firms win more new business and build more profitable practices. A sought-after consultant, facilitator, author and speaker, she advises clients on practice growth through marketing, sales and client service. With a proven track record and positive high-energy style, she inspires and empowers local, regional, national and international groups to do more of the work they love. You can reach her at
336-889-GROW (4769) or www.thecrevargroup.com. If you are looking for more practical tips to help build your practice, visit her new blog.