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Charlie Lawson, author of The Unnatural Networker, and I often discuss the importance of telling a great story. Think about the last networking meeting you went to where people had a chance to introduce themselves: Were they interesting? Did they grab your attention? Were they engaging? Or did you often find yourself thinking: Do I really have to carry on this conversation?
Have a great story ready to tell
If you want to know that people are really listening — supply them with a great story. Charlie gave me an example regarding a Business Networking International member named Dena.
Dena ran a Yorkshire, England-based listing agency specializing in short-term accommodations. One day she got a call on a cold, rainy February afternoon. Dena could tell that the lady on the line, who we’ll call “Ann”, was quite upset from all the commotion of kids running around in the background. Ann had been kicked out of a house by her partner, who’d left her with the kids and she was calling to see if there was anything Dena could do to help.
“I know this doesn’t usually happen on short notice,” admitted Ann, “but I need somewhere to stay tonight.”
Dena managed to source her a property and told the harried mom that they’d work out the details as soon as possible the following day. Then, right as Dena was about to hang up the phone, she asked: “Where are you, now?”.
Ann relayed that she was currently standing on a roadside, with kids in tow, along with a couple of suitcases and no ride. So Dena got in her car, picked the crew up and took them to their temporary residence where they managed to sort everything out.
After telling this tale, Charlie’s asked me if I would ever refer business to Dena. I answered as anyone would — with an effusive yes!
Reveal something they’ll remember
Dena realized that they were in a grave situation, and she could make a difference for Ann and her family.
A regular listing agent would just go as far as offering short-term and last-minute solutions before hanging up to address whomever else is on hold. What better sells these services is the fact that we know we’d be comfortable referring said agent — and that is where storytelling happens. It becomes both memorable and the sort of thing we’d bring back up in subsequent conversations. The next time someone asks me about listing agents, who do you think I’m going to remember?
Even though we may not have been in that situation ourselves, the story helps us understand how the person involved felt. Ann actually did get the family into a permanent flat, but what resonates most is how Dena served her potential client in a time of need.
Storytelling is more interesting, memorable and referable than simple facts about services that you offer. Recall why we go to networking events – to build our businesses through referrals. We’ve got to give our networking partners the tools to find those referrals and I think effective anecdotes are a great way to do it. Plus compelling stories, as Charlie likes to say, “won’t bore people to tears”.