The Purpose of the Purpose Story
Your customers might be excited about what you’re selling, and they might be excited how you are selling it, but would they be more excited if they know why you were selling it to them? That is what is at heart of the Purpose Story. This chapter of storytelling (remember Part 1 was the Value Story, and Part 2 was the Founder Story), will demonstrate how one of the most versatile story types (Purpose Stories) will bridge the gaps between the Value and Founder Stories, and connect the story to the team.
“Companies that have a stated purpose other than profit, and that align themselves with it, return more profits over time. It can seem counterintuitive, but in the absence of a purpose, profit steps in to fill the void.”
I am sure you are wondering why I would talk about a Purpose Story for hotel sales; but, trust me, we really, really need “the why” in our lives. We as humans have an almost inescapable habit as humans to want to give meaning to things and from an evolutionary perspective, being goal-oriented and purpose-driven is an advantage. “We’re [all] wired to want purpose and give meaning to things. It’s part of why story matters, but it’s also why purpose matters so much in work. People want a purpose. If you don’t give them one, they’ll make up their own. Tell your stories first, otherwise someone might tell them for you, and you might not like their version.”
OK – so what does this all mean to my salesmanship?
“Purpose stories live and die on how well, how strongly the story supports a specific message.”
Let’s review some of things I’ve spoken to you about in the past.
- Relationships: Building strong relationships with your customers emphasizes the fact that ‘people buy from people they know, like and trust’. Researchers have long studied the effects of storytelling as a means by which humans connect and organize themselves and their understanding of the world. Storytelling, as a method for uniting, clarifying, and motivating groups of people, has been used for years and for many different goals and initiatives both in and outside of business. Building a relationship with a customer is often a case of finding commonality. Relating stories appropriate to the customer builds like and trust.
- Brand Identity: Review your brand’s Value and Founder stories again and you’ll likely find a Purpose Story. Using the Marriott example, the humble beginnings of Alice and JW Marriott led them to build a business to fill a gap in the market. It started with root beer and tamales and over the years has morphed into what the brand is today. Every Marriott employee, from doorman, to manager, is oriented with this Purpose Story! How you use your brand’s identity to tell the Purpose Story for your hotel is up to you.
- Testimonials: Over the years, I have encouraged all of us to use testimonials from happy customers in your sales messages, letters, emails, and collateral. Using firsthand and relatable information is paramount to convincing a new customer as to why your hotel is the right hotel for their needs. These are a type of Purpose Stories. If you use one, the purpose must be clear, and they must clearly illustrate the message you are trying to convey. Using a real customer story in your message conveys that message.
Purpose stories are successful if the story strongly supports a specific message. And, they need to have all of the following components in order to convey that message:
- Identifiable Characters: Keep your audience in mind. What details will they relate to or connect with? What detail will make them say ‘yep – that’s so me.’ Is the identifiable character in your story you, someone on your team, your founder, or one of your other customers (testimonial)? Use the right voice at the right time to convey the message.
- Authentic Emotions: The success of your Purpose Story is entirely dependent on your ability and willingness to share how you felt about these events. Sometimes you need to be vulnerable and sometimes you need to be emotional. “When we’re vulnerable in the workplace, we connect on a human level, increasing trust among leadership and employees, encouraging the sharing of ideas, and increasing loyalty.” For example, I remember seeing the look on the president of XYZ’s face when he walked into our meeting room for his annual conference. He was struck by the attention to detail our set up crew had taken to make sure every table and chair was perfectly aligned, linens were crisp and clean, and that they had taken the time to project his company logo into the overhead projection screen. This one little thing let him know that we valued his business and were going to work very hard to ensure his event went off without a hitch. These details, coupled with a perfect meeting experience, helped us build a relationship with XYZ company over the years – one that is still active today.”
- A Moment: When using a Purpose Stories, the decisive moment often coincides with the aha moment for the customer. “It’s the split second before a realization. It’s the cross-over point between the normal, where things have been moving along as they usually do, and the moment when things suddenly change. You learn a lesson. You gain a new perspective. You enter the new normal.”
- Specific Details: “The success of a Purpose Story hinges on the [sales manager’s] ability to make a story that is technically about him/her to feel like a story that’s about the [potential client].” Use specific details to help blur the lines between the identifiable character [you] and the audience [client].
- Try associating commute times between hotel and office to time gained for rest and relaxation; associate size of guest rooms and the ability of guest to bring their family to stay with them (especially in the summer – think bleisure travel); associate local area attractions to opportunities to explore or partake in activities such as the beach, rock climbing, hiking, golf, or exploring history…. there are so many ways to tie specific selling details to a story.
- An example might be, “Mr. Doe – I know you’ve told me on several occasions how much you and your family likes auto racing. Did you know that our hotel is located just 2 miles from the New Jersey Raceway? There are events throughout the summer that you might want to enjoy with your kids. Our guest rooms are large enough for families and rates are reasonable so you can extend your stay through the weekend. Just last week we had three business travelers from Corning who brought their family and stayed for the XYZ race. They had a blast and these road warriors finished off as successful week of meetings with a family weekend by going to the track.”
When times are good, a Purpose Story can drive a business to better performance through better culture. When times are tough, they can mean nothing short of survival. Anyone can tell a Purpose Story. Try one today.
Happy storytelling with a purpose,
References: Stories that Stick by Kindra Hall.