Storytelling. Little Red Riding Hood and BB Wolf

Storytelling: Your ‘Once Upon A Time’ Story

In my previous blog Storytelling:  Salesmanship or Fantasy, we explored the Value Story for your company.  In this blog, we will continue to understand why the Founder’s Story is important and how entrepreneurs use story to attract money, customers, and talent.

According to Kindra Hall, author of Stories That Stick, every business has a story and every business has a founder story.  She continues by saying that behind every business, there is a story of the who and the how it all began…. A story about the moment when an idea first struck.  A story from the moment the founder realized this might actually be a business.

I know that hotel sales persons are not the founders of their hotels or their brands, but embracing the Founder Story and using it and your passion for your hotel is one of the best ways to stand out and bridge the gap between you and your potential customer.  Every sales person in our portfolio is trying to differentiate themselves in the crowded, noisy market of hotels.  Using your hotel’s (or your) Founder Story will help you achieve that difference. I can guarantee that the hotel sales person in the building down the street is not doing that!

"Sadly, differentiation is more difficult to achieve than we'd like it to be. How do you show you're different without looking like everyone else who is claiming to be different in the exact same way?"

During the course of your sales calls and phone conversations, how many times have you touted your hotel as superior over your competition by telling the potential customer, we have superior customer service, the highest ethical standards, friendliest staff, most up-to-date accommodations, free breakfast, free calls, free parking, yada, yada, yada?  I’ll bet these are the statements on your cheat sheets to help you describe your hotel to those potential customers.  These features, while absolutely true, mean little because they just heard the same exact list of features from the person that just left their office.  This list of performance and philosophical qualities are what you may think sets you apart from other hotels; but actually, these qualities really make you indistinguishable from your competition!

Using a Founder Story and storytelling, taps into the desires at the core of every human.  No matter where the founder currently is on his/her quest for entrepreneurial success, the story of the early days often reads like a fairy tale.  Which is exactly why you should tell it and never stop.

I know there are many companies that think they don’t have a Founder Story, but trust me, there is a story there somewhere in the company’s history, the brand history, or your history that will resonate with your customer and must be told to help differentiate you from the crowd!  The story doesn’t have to be complicated, long, or tearful…. it just takes a simple story, a story about the time it all started, the first success, or first failure. 

All things equal, your Founder Story will connect you in a meaningful way to your customer.  

People do business with people they know, like and trust.

For those who have worked with me over the years and/or read my blogs, news articles, or followed my social media pages, this is a statement that I have repeated over and over again.  It is an integral part of my Founder Story.

People want to do business with people, and hearing the Founder Story reminds them that, yes, behind the website, the marketing, there is an actual person who started it all.

Okay, so how do we develop our Founder Story and where and when do we tell it?

  • “There Has To Be A Better Way” Moment:  If you have ever had the realization that the way things have always been done is not the best way, you could have a beginning of a Founder Story.  Hotels should think about their brand moments.  A perfect example is Marriott.  How many of you have heard the stories about the root beer and taco stand that became the foundation of this brand?  It is simple, they saw a need and then figured out how to cater to the needs of the customer.  Every day, every year, they improved on those opportunities.  If you are a Marriott branded salesperson you need to capitalize on these stories and talk about how they influence you!
  • “Look for the Blood , Sweat, and Tears”:  Maybe the moment in your Founder Story has nothing to do with the need for a product, but the need for your founder’s personal life success.  Being successful is about working hard and sacrificing everything to be build their product.  When it comes to finding your Founder Story, don’t immediately run to the sunny side of the street.  Though it may be tempting to focus on your successes, you might be better off looking into the shadows.  The struggles of a person/persons often lead you to find the seeds of your Founder Story.

In Ms. Hall’s book, she cautions about several “Founder Story Pitfalls”. 

  • First and foremost, do not confuse the Founder Story with the Value Story – they are different.  They may overlap, but they are different.  The Value Story is about the PRODUCT and when you are talking about the product, you’re selling the product, not yourself.  The Founder Story is fundamentally about the founder and when you are telling this story, first and foremost, you’re selling [both them] and yourself.
  • Never tire of telling the Founder Story.  The story might sound old to you, but to the person hearing it for the first time, it’s as new as the day it happened.
  • Even if you are NOT the founder, you can still tell the Founder Story.  If you are a member of the team (i.e. sales person), you are still connected to the Founder Story.  The story stays the same, just the transition into the story changes.  The author suggests you start your story with a phrase like, “I remember the day I heard the story of how it all began….” then tell the story.  Instead of it being first person, use third person.  When wrapping up the story, say something like, “when I heard that story I knew [insert important, relevant insight], and I hope you fell that way too!”
hands with different words of emotions written on them

Including emotion in your story is essential to making it more relatable, compelling, and sticky.  Figure out what your audience cares about and then draw a connection to the product, the service, and your commitment to creating a better experience for them.  Using the Marriott example, you can draw on the desire for Mr. and Mrs. Marriott to be successful, grow their business, and take care of their family.  Translate that into focusing on the brand pillars of your hotel and working with families and friends to provide comfort and quality for their event and stay.

So what Founder Story will you tell and how will you incorporate the history of your company into the sales presentation?

Happy storytelling!


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