Most Effective Sales Rep Series Part 2:
Using a Narrative Arc and Universal Plots in Demo Storytelling
Losing the interest of an audience takes 3 seconds. How long is your intro story? Is there a better way to captivate your audience? Will it appeal to all audiences? Storytelling is a real art and certain Demo Identities tell stories better than others, but all Identities can benefit from universal appeal storytelling. Operating within the framework of the book, The Seven Basic Plots and Why People Tell Stories by Christoper Booker, we would like to show you how to craft a story to engage your audience and close a deal.
What is a Universal Appeal Story Line?
The Seven Basic Plots and Why People Tell Stories by Christopher Booker is an excellent framework for understanding why we tell stories and what the universal stories we relate to. He is of course not the only person who has dived into the phenomenon of storytelling, Joseph Campbell, nearly every anthropologist or sociologist, or religious studies professor study stories and apply them to the understanding of man and its relation to its environment. According to Christopher Booker, the Universal plots are overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return, comedy, tragedy, and rebirth. We explain each briefly below and offer applications in your demos.
When to Use or Lose a Universal Plotline in Demoing
- Overcoming the Monster: Protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonist who threatens their land/belongings/loved ones/livelihood.Use this plot when your demo solution solves a BIG problem.
- Rags to Riches: Protagonist without resources acquires them, whether it be power, mate, or resources, then loses them all, then gains them back with renewed understanding or lesson learned.Use this plot to gain trust or illustrate how small steps can lead to big gains.
- The Quest: Protagonist and team set out to meet a goal and meet obstacles along the way.Use this plot to show the value of teamwork in the goal of bigger sales and scaling up
- Voyage and Return: Protagonist sets out into unfamiliar territory, learns lessons, returns victorious and applies lessons.
- Comedy: Protagonist is a light character who fumbles many times to succeed and learns lessons along the way to a goal. Use this for transitioning to a different feature and to keep audience attention.
- Tragedy: Protagonist is the hero but has a major flaw that is their undoing.We would not recommend using Tragedy unless you are referring very specifically to well known historical tragedies aka Shakespeare.
- Rebirth: Major event forces a change in character to overcome their circumstances. Rebirth can be a bit heavy for a demo. Software does not tend to REALLY change your life.
Applying Universal Appeal Stories and Practical Storytelling
Use a story to reengage the audience after a product feature OR use a story to tie the entire demo together. We will go over a couple of applications of universal appeal storytelling and applying the narrative arc to gain credibility, keep audience attention, and bring attention to the value of your product feature. In order to get the benefit of audience engagement through storytelling, follow a standard narrative arc, such as the one below.
- Set the Stage
- Rising Action
- Falling Action
Example 1: Gaining trust through a Comedy
The Goal in this example is to gain audience trust with a personal story near the beginning of your presentation.
Set the stage: Tuesday July 2019 wife is 9 months pregnant. Thinking of names, getting room ready.
Rising action: Lose job, Water breaks, run to the hospital, run out of gas, forget everything in the go bag, wrong doctor etc.
Climax: Baby is born to my wife and my favorite song, and the frenzy of the way to the delivery, fades away.
Falling Action: 5 months later. Baby is fine, name the baby, show the baby, play the song.
Resolution: Through seeing a bigger picture, I understood timing and quick thinking, then applied it to my business, never forgetting to put gas in the car, keep a favorite song close by, and have a go bag.
This story will take no more than a minute to tell. Use descriptive words to set your scene, colors, sounds, smells, noises, to get the audience there with you, then deliver the point.
Example 2: Make your Audience the Hero then Go on a Feature Journey
Set the Stage: Grab a coffee and settle in, we are going as a group on a journey through the past week’s sales process.
Rising action: Show slides based on discovery of the team going about their day to day. Encountering the same problem, humorously trying to solve with them.
Climax: Problem now causes and issue with higher up, depending on your audience, or it loses a deal.
Falling Action: Deal causes ripple effect and the team morale goes down.
Resolution: We have a solution for this and here is how we are fixing it. Show one feature that solves the problems. What they would have avoided if they had done it differently.
Example 3: Transition with Stories to Keep Attention with Tragedy/Comedy
Consider the feature you are going to show next, and find a tie in for a story. Keep these transitional stories handy with each of your features to use in the event of eyes glazing over.
Set the stage: So your feature has a funny back story.
Rising Action: Your boss had this issue, color blind and using the incorrect colors on slides.
Climax: He lost a really big deal, due to design.
Falling Action: After the fact, the team did an audit of what was happening during presentations.
Resolution: After realizing that the colors were throwing people off, we introduced this feature that automatically adjusts and contrasts for accessibility.
Here we show the importance of teamwork to overcome a tragedy and ultimately to show the value of the feature. The delivery of the story is short and the point is easily illustrated with a visual. Most audiences can relate and experience empathy for someone with this type of impairment and definitely would like to benefit from a solution that would negate the impact of inaccessibility.
Storytelling is more effective than straight selling in a demo because of its ability to join the entire audience together and bring them on a journey with a narrator. It falls short if it does not have universal appeal or it follows a long path to conclusion. Keep it short and sweet and funny if you can, with obvious value added. Use visuals where the words wonâ€