Sparkline Storytelling: Inspired Prospects Do Not Need to be Closed
“Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives — the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, and change it are truly powerless because they cannot think new thoughts.” — Salman Rushdie
Whenever I share with fitness professionals that my own “close” rate was just over 60% of all fitness consultations I conducted as a personal trainer, I am typically met with utter disbelief. Their skepticism is further amplified by mentioning approximately one in four of those very same prospects never left the table with me prior to enrolling in at least three months of personal training.
You may even be thinking the same thing right now as you read this. I can assure you it is not B.S. I can also assure you I will not be able to give you all the secrets to success in one blog. However, I can provide you with one of the more significant drivers of that success: sparkline storytelling.
You likely already know brand storytelling is a powerful practice utilized by marketing companies across all major industries. Something you may not have known, however, is stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts by our audience/prospects.
If I were to say, “Fly the Friendly Skies,” “Just Do It,” or “The Breakfast of Champions,” I don’t have to name any of those companies, because you already know who they are. Let’s all agree stories work in marketing, so it stands to reason they should work just as well in your sales pitch. So your next question should be, “What story should I be telling to set both myself and my prospect up for success?”
Randomly added, yet totally related note: Did you know that all of the stories ever told, or will ever be told, can be divided into seven basic plotlines? Those master plotlines are:
- Overcoming the monster
- Rags to riches
- The quest
- Voyage and return
Now ask yourself, which of those storylines do you think would work best with your prospects?
Trick question — the answer is it may be any of them. All the more reason you should spend more time listening than talking (but that’s a whole other blog).
In a previous blog, I have discussed eliciting and leveraging the “fresh start effect” in your prospects. Primarily, you work to establish if they are willing to make the commitment to change with us, our business and our solution today, the “new them” may be better able to achieve the success that “old them” wasn’t yet ready to. That is still the goal. Now I’m going to tell you how you effectively message the “fresh start effect.”
As I said in the beginning, I am not going to be able to give you all of the truly hundreds of things here. For example, the content of your story means nothing if you have not already established yourself as a passionate expert by creating professional rapport.
In Aristotle’s book, “Rhetoric,” he refers to this as the art of persuasion. Basically, you must establish ethos (your expertise), pathos (your passion), and logos (your argument), in that order, to be effective in moving any other person to action.
In Nancy Duarte’s now famous TED Talk, “The Secret Structure of Great Talks,” she identifies that the greatest speeches in history share a common format we now refer to “sparklines.” By alternating the story from the “what is” versus the “what could be,” or from their “current state” versus their “ideal state,” we can inspire members to believe change happens here if they are willing to believe in themselves today and trust the process working toward a better tomorrow.
Let me give you an example of the language I may use:
“Based on everything you have shared with me today, Jane Doe, no one could blame you for not being able to stick to a fitness program to date. Change is difficult, but I want to share something with you from my experience working in this field for so long. I have partnered with hundreds of clients just like yourself, Jane, who believed, expected and wanted more from themselves. But there was always something missing that prevented them from being successful. Maybe it was knowledge, structure or discipline of accountability. Whatever the reason, what I know is if you are willing to commit to me, I am willing to commit to you. I may not always tell you what you want to hear, and I can certainly assure you those first few days and weeks are going to really suck, but if you stick with this, we can manifest true change in your life. Maybe you can not fit in your skinny jeans today, but in XXX weeks, you will be rocking those things. I can promise you are going to laugh at how much longer you can maintain that plank in XXX weeks compared to what you were able to do today.”
Of course, that script will vary greatly. The most important thing to remember is simply that you want to inspire prospective clients to believe tomorrow can be better if they are willing to believe in both you and themselves. Just don’t mess it up by over-promising. If you say you can help them, either help them, or guide them to someone on staff who can.
Success isn’t a happy accident, my friends.